Moderna vaccine warmly welcomed to Israel’s shores

The good news comes as the rate of those dying from Covid-19 rises and the suggestion is made to delay the second dose of the vaccine to inoculate more people at least once.

By Batya Jerenberg, World Israel News

Just three days after its approval by Israel’s Ministry of Health, the first shipment of Moderna’s vaccine against the coronavirus is set to arrive in Israel Thursday, Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu announced in a video message Wednesday.

“A few days ago I spoke with Moderna CEO Stéphane Bancel, and tomorrow the first shipment of Moderna vaccines is scheduled to arrive in Israel,” Netanyahu said.

There are only some 120,000 doses in the initial batch, which Netanyahu said would be administered specifically to “people who cannot go to the health funds, who are home-bound or for whatever reason cannot get to the inoculation sites.”

The first delivery is intentionally small, similar to the first Pfizer batch, for reasons that include testing the supply and storage process. In contrast to Pfizer’s vaccine, whose stockpile must be kept in special freezers at -70 degrees and used within five days of defrosting, Moderna’s can be stored in regular freezers and can keep for a month after being thawed. Its second dose is given four weeks after the initial injection, while Pfizer’s is administered after a three-week interval.

Israel has ordered 6 million doses of Moderna’s vaccine, enough to protect 3 million citizens. Dr. Tal Zaks, Moderna’s chief medical officer, told N12 that “however fast we can deliver [the vaccines], that is how fast we will deliver them,” as it was now simply “a matter of production.”

In a separate interview with Ynet Wednesday, the native-born and educated Zaks said that he was “very proud as an Israeli that Israel is one of the first countries in the world that mobilized to pre-purchase all the vaccines, both ours and Pfizer’s, and is at the forefront today in terms of the ability to vaccinate its citizens.”

The news of another serum hitting Israel’s shores was warmly welcomed, as health authorities have confirmed that they must pause for at least a week in inoculating the public with the Pfizer vaccine that was rolled out last month. This to ensure that there will be enough of a supply for the required second dose that will begin to be administered to the 1.5 million Israelis who have received the first jab.

The importance of getting vaccinated grows as there has been a worrying rise in the Israeli death toll from Covid-19, which as of Wednesday stood at 3,527. According to the Worldometer tracking website, in the first week of January alone, 202 Israelis have succumbed to the pandemic, 50 of them just on Tuesday. Israel currently has 64,370 active cases, with 905 patients in serious condition.

Some medical professionals have suggested that the second Pfizer injection should be delayed in order to give more people a first dose, although they acknowledge that it would not be the ideal thing to do.

“I think that it is more important to get more people vaccinated,” said Dr. Gili Regev-Yochay, director of the Infectious Disease Epidemiology Unit of the Sheba Medical Center in a press briefing Tuesday. “We are only talking about a month. I don’t think it will cause any damage and the damage from the disease is greater.”

She said that half of the first hundred people who were vaccinated at the hospital already developed strong antibodies to the disease after two weeks. This means that there is a good chance they are now at least somewhat protected from infection.

The Health Ministry has said that it would not tamper with the two-injection protocol, and Pfizer warned that it had no proof that the vaccine it developed with BioNTech would work if the second shot was not administered in time.