Tel Aviv: Israel agreed to an agreement with Pfizer Inc. to expedite delivery of its Covid-19 vaccine so that citizens aging more than 16 could be vaccinated by the end of March to exchange comprehensive data on the vaccination program.
More than 1.7 million Israelis, or about 18% of its population, have already received their first dose of the Pfizer-BioNotech vaccine, a larger proportion than any other country. Officials warned that the pace would slow down with new vaccine supplies before February.
But late Thursday night, Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu said that the next Pfizer shipment was now expected on Sunday and that deliveries would be extended. The deal came after 17 negotiations with Pfizer’s chief executive Albert Borla. He said, would serve as a “global model state” of Israel and to “develop a strategy” with the company and other countries to end the outbreak.
Israel credits its universal health coverage, centralized system, and extensive digital record for enabling rapid delivery and analysis of the vaccine effort.
The country was also affected by the first batch of doses from Modern Inc. on Thursday.
While the vaccine effort is advancing rapidly, officials are struggling with an increase in coronavirus cases that has led to a tight lockout since Friday. The ban, imposed since late December, failed to contain the virus. Schools and non-essential businesses will now be closed.
Netanyahu, whose corruption trial will soon move into a higher gear, hopes the vaccine program will enable him to reopen the Israeli economy on March 23, before the country’s fourth election in two years.
Researchers at the Bank of Israel said this week that rapid vaccination efforts could expand production by 6.3% this year and 5.8% in 2022.
So far, only Israelis in more than 60 or chronic conditions are eligible for a shot – and about 75% of vaccines have gone into that group so far, Health Minister Yuli Edelstein told.