The country’s health authorities said that Israel is in talks with other countries over an agreement to sell surplus Covid-19 vaccines produced by Pfizer/Biontech, the doses of which are due to expire by the end of the month.
Israeli Prime Minister Naftali Bennett said he spoke with Pfizer CEO Albert Burla about securing more vaccines for Israel and potential vaccine exchange agreements between Israel and other countries, although he did not say which. “The contacts are being conducted by the Ministry of Health, the State Department, and the National Security Council,” Bennett said.
Israeli Health Minister Hezi Levy said in an interview with local radio station 103 FM that the doses he intends to export expire on July 31 and that any deal must receive Pfizer’s approval. But the official did not say how many doses Israel intends to sell or exchange, or with any countries.
“We are negotiating with other countries,” Levy said. The Israeli prime minister confirmed that such a deal was discussed with the UK last week, but said the deal had not materialized and was “a thing of the past”.
A Pfizer spokesperson said the company is “happy to discuss potential Pfizer/BioNTech vaccine donation requests between governments on a case-by-case basis, particularly if it helps ensure the vaccine is used to protect people from disease.”
Last month, the Palestinians rejected about a million doses from Israel because they were too close to their expiration date. Israel launched one of the world’s fastest vaccines in December, and has since vaccinated nearly 90 percent of people over the age of 50, a group considered most at risk. Overall, however, about a fifth of all eligible Israelis have not yet received the vaccine, according to Health Ministry data.
With infections dropping from more than 10,000 per day in January to single digits, Israel, with a population of 9.3 million, has removed nearly all restrictions on the novel coronavirus. However, Levy cautioned that the increase in cases that began in mid-June, which has been attributed to a more contagious delta variant, could bring back some restrictions.
Vaccination rates peaked in January and gradually declined until June, when children aged 12 to 15 were eligible for the vaccine. The prevalence of delta variable, especially among school-age children, has prompted parents to vaccinate their children, and the rate has increased fivefold since early June.
Levy said Pfizer’s vaccine was 85% to 88% effective against the delta variant, a high but lower number compared to its efficacy against the other variants. The Israeli Prime Minister was based on a British study, as well as on recent investigations by the Ministry of Health.