The Health Ministry on Friday reached an understanding with Swedish-British biopharmaceutical company AstraZeneca to receive some ten million doses of the coronavirus vaccine, and the two parties are discussing the final details of the agreement.
It is expected most of the early vaccines will require two doses, so ten million doses will suffice five million people.
AstraZeneca is one of the leading pharmaceutical companies in the world and has recently published encouraging results on the effectiveness of its vaccine among senior citizens.
An initial supply of vaccines is expected to arrive in Israel in the first half of 2021, subject to approval by regulatory authorities in Europe, the US, and Israel.
Israel is currently negotiating multiple vaccine-related deals with the aim of providing first-class vaccines for every Israeli who wishes to be vaccinated. Contrary to previous media reports, the Health Ministry stressed that no one will be forced to vaccinate should they chose not to.
“This is another important achievement for Israel. We want to make sure that anyone who wishes to be vaccinated will be able to do so as soon as possible. It is better to overachieve in this case,” Prime Minister Binyamin Netanyahu said in a statement.
Meanwhile, it is unclear if children will be able to receive any coronavirus vaccinations purchased from Pfizer, Moderna, and AstraZeneca as none of the companies included children under the age of 12 in their clinical trials.
“Including children in such studies is more complex in terms of ethical approvals. Also, most children who contract the virus recover easily, therefore they are not common participants in COVID-19 vaccine trials. I suppose the study will be expanded later,” Dr. Zachi Grossman, president of the Israel Ambulatory Pediatric Association, told Yisrael Hayom. “I can’t imagine anyone giving a child a vaccine that has only been tested on adults.”
The Pediatric Association has asked the Health Ministry to include its specialists in the team that will regulate the vaccination process, in light of their experience in dealing with those who are hesitant or outright refuse to be vaccinated.
“A significant part of the population is hesitant or opposed to vaccination. The polls state that 20% of the population does not intend to get vaccinated. There is a lot of misinformation in the media and on social networks,” Dr. Grossman added.
The Health Ministry’s Advisory Committee on Infectious Diseases is currently discussing the prioritization of risk groups. The ministry’s pandemic task force has held a similar discussion about at-risk populations and mentioned healthcare workers, including nursing home workers, as an additional group.