How Israel beat out competitors to become Pfizer’s favorite

Israel wasn’t the only country Pfizer considered to get vaccines early and often.

By Batya Jerenberg, World Israel News

Demographic diversity was the major factor in getting Israel the millions of vaccine doses from Pfizer that enabled it to be the first country in the world to get back to normal life despite the Covid-19 pandemic, Israel Hayom reported Wednesday.

After proving the efficacy of its vaccine in trials of tens of thousands of people late last year, winning it permission from the FDA for emergency use, Pfizer began considering where it could roll out its serum to millions at once, as a kind of super-laboratory test.

“Vaccines will take time [to get] around the world, and we knew it was right for humanity to choose one country through which to demonstrate what the vaccine would do to health and the economy,” CEO Albert Bourla told Channel 12 in a March interview.

Two countries that fit the bill in terms of their not-too-large area and size of population were Estonia and Israel. Both were technologically advanced states with vast amounts of computerized data on the medical history of their citizens. Both boasted an excellent deployment of HMOs and other medical centers that could inoculate countrywide quickly and effectively.

What tipped the scale to Israel was the fact that its immigrant population came from all corners of the earth. That, and Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu not taking ‘no’ for an answer.

While Estonia’s populace is basically homogenous, Netanyahu told Pfizer head Albert Bourla, “You have a population here that originates from 100 different countries in the world. In the event of any adverse reaction to the vaccine, there will be extensive and accurate medical information about the connection, as it may be, between the origin [of the person] and the effects of the vaccine.”

Bourla himself has said that he had also been impressed by the Israeli prime minister’s tenacity in contending for his country.

“He called me to ask about children and pregnant women. I was impressed by his obsession, he called me more than 30 times, even at three in the morning. I know that Israel is good at managing crises and living in a state of almost constant war, and we are very happy that we gambled on Israel,” he said in the March interview.

According to the Israel Hayom report, the idea that Israel is very experienced in emergency situations and could react quickly and flexibly to any problem that might arise during the vaccination campaign was Netanyahu’s second winning argument with Bourla.

Israel has just closed another deal with Pfizer, which will see the country receive another 10 million doses from the company by the end of 2022.

It also doubled its original 5 million dose purchase from Moderna, which uses the same technology as Pfizer in creating their vaccine, with a future option for 30 million more from both companies.

This will cover Israel’s needs in case annual inoculations are necessary to protect people from variants of the disease that the original vaccines do not cover.

Netanyahu has already announced that people can expect to get booster shots in another six months.