Health Ministry Official: Vaccines to Start Arriving Within Weeks

Prof. Itamar Grotto. (Flash90)

Outgoing deputy director general of the Health Ministry, Professor Itamar Grotto, was interviewed by Radio 103FM on Tuesday and discussed the ongoing coronavirus crisis and the likelihood of several coronavirus vaccines becoming available to the Israeli public in the near future.

Grotto recently announced his resignation from the Health Ministry, after nearly 13 years in his current position, culminating in the unique challenges posed by the coronavirus.

Grotto was asked for his opinion when the first batch of vaccines would arrive in Israel, and he replied: “If everything goes according to plan, and huge quantities are manufactured and delivered, I believe that the first batch of vaccines will arrive here during the first few months of 2021.” He cautioned, however, that only small quantities would be arriving at first, perhaps twenty or thirty thousand.

Professor Grotto added that the Israeli authorities may choose not to rely solely on FDA approval, if and when it is given. “We will be examining all the data ourselves,” he said, “but that won’t delay matters much – it’s a question of another week to ten days.”

Asked how many people he thinks will be willing to be vaccinated, he responded that “we have no precise estimates – we can make a guess based on surveys, but it’s very hard to derive accurate results from surveys when the question is still theoretical. It’s a bit like asking people who they’ll vote for in an election that hasn’t been called yet,” he suggested, noting that the first batch of vaccines will be designated for those at high risk. “I imagine that those who know they are vulnerable to coronavirus will be more willing to get vaccinated,” he said, “because people tend to want to be protected from known dangers.”

With rumors abounding regarding the timing and length of a possible lockdown, Grotto commented that, “I think that at this point, it’s premature to be talking about a lockdown during Chanukah but a few weeks later, at the end of December or the beginning of January, it’s a distinct possibility. But I hope very much that it won’t be necessary,” he said.

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