First shipment of Pfizer’s anti-coronavirus drug arrives in Israel

Prime Minister Naftali Bennett has taken credit for personally leading the negotiations with Pfizer Chairman and CEO Albert Bourla.

By Gil Tanenbaum/TPS

The first shipment of the Pfizer drug for treating the coronavirus arrived at Ben-Gurion International Airport on Thursday. Israel is one of the first nations in the world to receive it.

Prime Minister Naftali Bennett has taken credit for personally leading the negotiations with Pfizer Chairman and CEO Albert Bourla. Health Minister Nitzan Horowitz and Health Ministry personnel also participated in the negotiations.

The new medication is not a vaccination, but a treatment for people already infected with the coronavirus and who are suffering from extreme symptoms. The medication has been shown to bring an 89% reduction in risk of COVID-19-related hospitalization or death among those treated. It is a protease inhibitor antiviral therapy, specifically designed to be administered orally so that it can be prescribed at the first sign of infection or at first awareness of an exposure.

It has been approved for use in the U.S. by the Food and Drug Administration.

If this medication proves successful, it may moot the need for shutdowns and other drastic measures being taken around the world to stem the COVID pandemic. However, there is still evidence that the coronavirus can cause many long term medical complications among the infected, even among those who showed no severe symptoms. For this reason, countries like Israel continue to promote full vaccination among their citizens.

The arrival of the Pfizer meds comes on the same day as it was revealed that Israel has registered an almost tripling of the number of daily coronavirus (COVID-19) cases in the past week, as experts predicted record-breaking numbers in the coming days. As a result of the renewed surge, Israel this week became the first country in the world to authorize a fourth round of coronavirus vaccinations, starting with people over the age of 60.

Most COVID cases uncovered in Israel are now from the Omicron variant of the virus.

The Ministry of Health updated Thursday that it registered 3,947 new cases in the past 24 hours, almost three times the 1,418 daily cases registered a week ago. About 136,000 tests were performed on Wednesday, and the positive rate was 2.93%, the highest rate in three months. A total of 16,088 cases were registered over the past seven days, a 126.6% increase over the week before that.

Prime Minister Bennett said that the delivery constitutes, for Israel, an important addition to the arsenal in the war against the pandemic.

“At a Cabinet meeting several weeks ago, I instructed that the procurement of the drug be advanced and thanks to our effort and determination, this is happening,” he said. “Just as we were global pioneers in giving the third and fourth doses of the vaccine, we are now leading as well in giving the drug to the citizens of Israel.”

“Thanks to our rapid action, the drugs have arrived in Israel quickly and will assist us in getting past the peak of the coming Omicron wave,” added Bennett.

He went to thank, Pfizer Chairman and CEO Albert Bourla, Health Minister Nitzan Horowitz and the personnel of his ministry, El Al for bringing the shipment and everyone who took part in the effort.

“We are acting correctly, in an orderly and efficient manner, in a combined effort – of tests, vaccinations and now the drug. Together, we will overcome the Omicron wave,” exclaimed Bennett.

Mr. Bennett also spoke with the pilot of the El Al plane that brought the new medication to Israel. He thanked the pilot and reiterated his feeling that, while this is an important step in fighting the coronavirus, the best thing for ending the pandemic is for everyone to get vaccinated.