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Moderna said set to send 1 million vaccines next week, cover Israel’s shortfall

Health Ministry says it cannot confirm TV report that the scheduled delivery of the shots, a type not yet being used in Israel, has been moved up from March

A Moderna COVID-19 vaccine held by a nurse in Boston, Massachusetts, December 30, 2020. (Elise Amendola/AP)
A Moderna COVID-19 vaccine held by a nurse in Boston, Massachusetts, December 30, 2020. (Elise Amendola/AP)

One million vaccines from the US biotech company Moderna will arrive in Israel next week, rather than in March as had previously been agreed, boosting dwindling supplies that had led to expectations of a dramatic slowdown in the country’s mass inoculation drive, Channel 12 news reported Thursday.

The Health Ministry said it could not confirm the report.

“We would like to clarify that as of now, we don’t have information about Moderna’s intention to move up the delivery of millions of vaccines to Israel,” the ministry said in a statement.

Later, the network cited sources in Moderna as insisting the shipment was ready and that its departure was only a matter of final approval. The report said Moderna officials were “surprised” at the ministry’s apparent denial.

The Moderna vaccine has not yet been used in Israel as part of its immunization program. The Health Ministry has not officially announced its approval for use in the country, but is expected to do so after the FDA okayed it for emergency use in the US.

Israel has reached a pace of 150,000 vaccine injections every day for the past three days, giving shots to a total of at least 784,900 people.

The mass vaccination drive started at the beginning of last week and has so far focused mainly on healthcare workers, those aged over 60, and at-risk groups. Teachers are also being added to the roster.

The drive currently uses the Pfizer-BioNTech vaccination, which requires two shots, spread three weeks apart. The Moderna vaccine is also a two-shot inoculation.

Though not yet available to the general public, some vaccination centers have been opening their doors to anyone who comes at the end of each day in an effort to make sure vaccine units available for immediate use do not go to waste. So far some 30 percent of citizens over 60 have had their first shot, according to Health Ministry figures.

However, a shortage of injections threatens to force a semi-freeze on the campaign for two weeks in January.

More Pfizer vaccine supplies are only due in February and current stocks will run out in about 10 days at the current pace of inoculation, Channel 13 reported Wednesday.

The scheduled pause would allow those who have received the first dose to get the second dose, but new first doses would generally not be given.

This in turn would likely lead to a delay in opening vaccinations to the general public. Some officials had previously assessed that could happen within a week or so, but unless stocks are replenished it would need to wait a month and a half or more, the report said.

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