Israel may follow UK and approve Pfizer vaccine

Israel may not wait for the FDA to approve the vaccine, as doses for 2 million Israelis expected to be ready by next month.

By Paul Shindman, World Israel News

Israel may follow in the footsteps of the United Kingdom and approve the coronavirus vaccine produced by the American company Pfizer, even before the U.S. Food and Drug Administration certifies it as safe to use, Channel 13 reported Thursday.

The Health Ministry normally follows the American lead, but with virus infections rising and fears of a possible third wave, the Ministry updated Israel’s health maintenance organizations that enough vaccine should be in the country for the HMOs to begin inoculating two million people in January.

The system is expected to handle the challenge of giving shots to some 80,000 Israelis every day, which would get about 20 of the country inoculated in the first month of giving shots.

Last week, Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu toured the facilities being prepared to store the Pfizer vaccines, which need to be refrigerated in a deep freeze at minus 70 degrees.

Infections continue to rise, with the Health Ministry reporting 1,434 new cases in the past day with a positive test rate of just under two percent. The daily infection rate has tripled from its low point last month of only 500 infections a day.

Of the 532 Israelis hospitalized with coronavirus, 324 are listed in serious condition. To date 2,896 Israelis have died from the virus.

Health Ministry Director-General Chezi Levy warned Thursday that as infections rise, there may be a need to reimpose lockdown measures.

“We are considering more restrictions. A lockdown on Chanukah and curfew are possibilities that are being considered,” Levy said.

Government officials have warned there may be evening curfews over the eight-day Chanukah holiday, when Jewish families normally gather to light candles each evening of the holiday.

Also on Thursday, Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu reiterated that his government is working to obtain vaccines from as many sources as possible to ensure there are enough doses for Israel’s 9.2 million citizens.

“We see the light at the end of the pandemic because we are bringing millions of vaccines to the citizens of Israel,” Netanyahu said. “We are doing so through contacts with global companies. Of course, we are also advancing our own production at the Israel Institute for Biological Research.”

The Israeli vaccine is entering its second stage of clinical trials and is not expected to be approved until the summer of 2021.