Netanyahu: Israel will close Pfizer vaccine deal ‘in days’

Netanyahu said “significant progress was achieved which will enable the signing of the agreement between the State of Israel and Pfizer in the coming days.”

By Batya Jerenberg, World Israel News

Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu said he was optimistic that Israel would sign a deal with Pfizer for its vaccine candidate “in the coming days.”

In a 2AM phone call (Israel time) last night, said the prime minister’s office, Netanyahu spoke with the US drug giant’s CEO, Dr. Albert Bourla, together with legal representatives from both sides “to remove bureaucratic … difficulties and sign the agreement.”

“During the call, significant progress was achieved which will enable the signing of the agreement between the State of Israel and Pfizer in the coming days.”

The middle of the night call was the second one the prime minister had with Bourla within hours of each other, after Pfizer announced on Monday that a large clinical trial showed its new coronavirus vaccine was 90% effective.

The vaccine is slated to go into production to manufacture up to a billion doses by the end of 2021.

The prime minister got personally involved after the Health Ministry had reportedly dragged its feet in negotiating with the pharmaceutical multinational’s Israel branch.

“I asked to speak with him and he responded immediately,” Netanyahu said in a video he posted online. “It seems that Albert Bourla is very proud of his Greek and Jewish heritage from Thessaloniki and he told me that he holds the development of relations between Greece and Israel, which I have been leading in recent years, in high regard.”

Jerusalem and Athens have grown closer in recent years as both countries’ relations with neighboring Turkey have deteriorated steadily due to President Recep Tayyip Erdoğan’s Muslim Brotherhood-inspired antagonistic rhetoric and actions.

Channel 12 News reported Wednesday that in the deal, Israel would pay NIS 100 million for six million doses

According to Haaretz, Israel has already paid hundreds of millions of shekels to drug companies Moderna and Arcturus for their vaccines. Moderna expects to release the preliminary results of its own Phase 3 trial in a week or two. Arcturus has not yet reached this last stage of testing before a drug can be offered to government health authorities for approval.

Meanwhile, Hadassah University Medical Center has signed a memorandum of understanding with a Russian institute for 1.5 million doses of its vaccine candidate, which President Vladimir Putin said has proven 92% effective in its Stage 3 trial.

Israel’s own vaccine candidate, Brilife, has just begun Phase 1 testing.

Health Minister Yuli Edelstein cautioned Thursday that it will still take several months to get even the first inoculations.

“Even in the most optimistic of scenarios a serious amount of vaccines will not get to Israel this year,” he said.

Pfizer said in October that it could have 100 million doses ready by the end of 2020, as it has already begun production.