Israeli Vaccine Completes Phase I Trials

Medical staff at the coronavirus ward of the Kaplan Medical Center, in Rehovot, Israel. (Yossi Aloni/Flash90)

Israel’s own coronavirus vaccine project passed a milestone on Monday, as it completed Phase I of clinical trials and prepared to move on to Phase II.

The Israel Institute for Biological Research (IIBR) Phase II is expected to begin in the coming days with the participation of approximately 1,000 volunteers at Sheba and Hadassah Medical Centers, then gradually expanding to additional medical centers throughout the country.

Defense Minister, Benny Gantz said that “the scientists of the IIBR are Israel’s ‘elite unit,’ and have taken on an extremely important task – saving human lives. I see great importance in the development of an Israeli vaccine that will continue to serve Israeli society for years to come.”

The Ministry of Health has approved the continuation of the clinical trials. During the first phase, no significant side effects were detected, and two expert committees, both internal and external recommended the approval of the second phase.

The second phase of the trial, conducted over a period of several months, will include extensive safety tests with the participation of 1,000 healthy volunteers aged 18 and over. In this phase, scientists aim to complete vaccine safety precautions, determine effective dosage, and further determine the vaccine’s effectiveness. Its success will enable a large-scale trial to test the effectiveness of the vaccine with the participation of up to 30,000 volunteers (Phase 3) in Israel and/or abroad.

Given the much-heralded arrival of FDA-approved Pfizer vaccine and others, the question has arisen as to the need for a domestically-produced vaccine that will only become available months afterward.

The Defense Ministry, under whose auspices the IIBR operates, would not respond to a Times of Israel query about the matter, but it told Channel 13 news that the Institute for Biological Research vaccine was necessary to ensure Israel would have independent access to a vaccine.

It has been described by other officials as a backup plan to supplement vaccines purchased from pharmaceutical firms based abroad.

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