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Pfizer says working on a new deal to supply more vaccines to Israel

Drug company says it has fulfilled initial agreement with Jerusalem for inoculations, working to update it to ship more doses, as Israel prepares to vaccinate children

A Clalit vaccination center in Jerusalem, on February 25, 2021. (Olivier Fitoussi/Flash90)
A Clalit vaccination center in Jerusalem, on February 25, 2021. (Olivier Fitoussi/Flash90)

Pfizer said Monday it had completed all vaccine deliveries to Israel under its initial agreement and was working on a new deal to supply more doses to the Jewish state.

“The company is currently working with the Israeli government to update the agreement, to supply additional vaccines to the country. While this work continues, shipments may be adjusted,” Pfizer told the Reuters news agency.

Israel and Pfizer agreed to a vaccine deal in November. The drug company, together with its partner BioNTech, supplied Israel with an unspecified number of doses, and the Finance Ministry said it paid NIS 2.6 billion ($785 million).

Israel is seeking 36 million more doses, Reuters reported.

The shots will be for children, once they are deemed eligible, and to use as booster shots. Coronavirus czar Nachman Ash said Sunday that he believes Israel will start vaccinating children in the next few weeks.

The procurement of new doses has been delayed by political infighting, however.

Late last month, Defense Minister Benny Gantz canceled a cabinet meeting, which delayed ministers’ approval for purchasing additional vaccines.

Gantz, who heads the Blue and White party, said he canceled the meeting due to Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu’s refusal to allow the appointment of a justice minister. Israel has been without a justice minister since last week, which hampers the Knesset’s ability to pass legislation, among other consequences.

Defense Minister Benny Gantz speaks at the annual Jerusalem Conference of the ‘Besheva’ group in Jerusalem, on March 14, 2021. (Yonatan Sindel/Flash90)

During the canceled cabinet meeting, ministers were set to vote on a NIS 7 billion ($2.1 billion) spending package on coronavirus vaccines.

The Health Ministry expressed concern over the stalled approval for more vaccines and Pfizer was frustrated by the hold-up.

Israel has enough vaccines to fully inoculate the remaining unvaccinated population and to give a single shot to recovered COVID-19 patients, Health Ministry Director-General Chezy Levy said. However, he said Israel needed a continuing supply of shots and wanted to “get ahead of the rest of the world.”

Levy explained that it is not known how many vaccine boosters individuals may need to stay protected from the virus in the long run.

In an interview with Army Radio, Levy confirmed an earlier report that Pfizer was frustrated with the Israeli delay.

A report last week said that Netanyahu spoke with Pfizer CEO Albert Bourla about the delay in securing the budget. According to Channel 13, Netanyahu asked Bourla to be patient while Israel agrees on the procurement of additional vaccines.

“There will certainly be a cost to this. I assume they are turning to other places, and we could be shunted to another place in line,” Levy said. “We need to ensure our place for 2022.”

An Israeli student receive a COVID-19 vaccine injection, at Amal high school in the southern Israeli city of Beersheba, March 17, 2021. ( Flash90)

A ministry official said there is enough existing stock of Pfizer vaccines in Israel to start inoculating about 600,000 Israelis aged 12-15.

Bourla has expressed optimism that the shots will be approved for children younger than 12 in the fall of 2021. The company has already begun vaccine trials on young children.

Israel already began inoculating teens aged 16-18 in January.

Over half the Israeli population has taken the Pfizer-BioNTech vaccine.

According to Health Ministry data released Monday, 5,273,362 Israelis have received at least one vaccine dose and 4,851,892 have received both.

Currently, several million Israelis are ineligible for the vaccine, most of them under the age of 16.

According to the latest Health Ministry figures, 193 new coronavirus cases were confirmed Sunday, which along with another 252 since midnight, brought the number of infections since the pandemic began to 834,603.

The death toll stood at 6,248.

There were 5,025 active cases, with 323 people in serious condition, including 176 on ventilators.

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