The Mossad brought a Chinese coronavirus vaccine to Israel in recent weeks in order to study and learn from it, Channel 12 reported on Monday.
The goal is to study it and explore new vaccination options in addition to the one currently being produced by the Israel Institute for Biological Research in Nes Tziona. Hundreds of thousands of people have reportedly been vaccinated in China, although the required trials have not yet been completed.
The report comes as countries and companies around the world race to develop a vaccine, with cyberattacks and espionage reported against a number of developers. Various estimates have claimed that the origin of the cyberattacks is in China.
Israel is trying to reach agreements to purchase coronavirus vaccines from several other potential developers, according to a senior Health Ministry official who is in the know.
The Israel Institute for Biological Research announced on Sunday that it will begin human trials next week on its coronavirus vaccine. The vaccine has received all necessary approvals from the Health Ministry and the Helsinki Committee for medical experiments on humans.
“This is a day of hope for the citizens of Israel,” Defense Minister Benny Gantz said. “Just two months ago, I received the first bottle of the vaccine. Today, we already have 25,000 vaccine doses.”
Eighty volunteers aged between 18 and 55 will be monitored for three weeks to see if virus antibodies develop. A second phase, expected to begin in December, will involve 960 people over the age of 18.
Should those succeed, a third, large-scale phase with 30,000 volunteers is scheduled for April/May. If successful, the vaccine may then be approved for mass use.
The vaccine, the Defense Ministry said, has already tested well on a number of animal models.
“Our final goal is 15 million rations for the residents of the State of Israel and for our close neighbors,” said IIBR Director Shmuel Shapira.
There are no internationally approved vaccines yet, but several are in advanced trials, including from Pfizer Inc, Johnson & Johnson, AstraZeneca Plc and Moderna.