Netanyahu, Pfizer CEO to talk after Israel fails to approve vaccine purchase in time

Despite two months of talks, no vaccine deal was signed and Pfizer is looking to sell its vaccine to other countries.

By Paul Shindman, World Israel News

The head of the American pharmaceutical firm Pfizer agreed to talk to Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu about procurement of Pfizer’s new coronavirus vaccine for Israel after the drug company said despite two months of negotiations the Israelis had not agreed to terms, Kan News reported Wednesday.

Pfizer informed its Israeli branch that since the Ministry of Health is delaying the closing of a deal to purchase vaccines, it is interested in moving forward in selling its new vaccine to other countries, Kan reported, saying the complex negotiations were not being handled by senior ministry officials.

As a result, Netanyahu intervened and an urgent meeting was held Wednesday at the Ministry of Health with representatives of Pfizer. The prime minister is expected to hold a phone call with Pfizer CEO Albert Bourla to ask him to make sure several million doses of vaccine are available to Israel.

On Tuesday, Pfizer announced that a large clinical trial showed its new coronavirus vaccine was 90% effective and was moving ahead to produce up to a billion doses by the end of 2021.

Netanyahu hailed the announcement as a “light at the end of the tunnel” and said that Israel is pursuing not just the Pfizer vaccine, but other vaccines as well to ensure that there are enough doses for Israel’s 9.2 million citizens.

Countries around the world are competing to reserve millions of doses of vaccines from numerous suppliers to ensure that they have enough medicine. Pfizer said it would only have 50 million doses available in December, but was ramping up production.

“There are contacts over the past period of several months with all of the leading companies in the world that are producing vaccines,” Deputy Health Minister Yoav Kish said.

Kish said due to legal considerations he couldn’t go into details, but admitted that “it could be that we should have made a decision earlier.” Netanyahu already said that Israel has reached an agreement with the American firm Moderna, and was negotiating deals for Russian and Chinese vaccines.

“People have tried to do the best they can, and I’m sure we can investigate backwards and say there were mistakes,” Kish said.

A source in the health system told Kan the ministry had been “dragging its feet so far on the issue and said that so far there has been no real preparation for how the vaccine will be distributed.”

The ministry estimated that after Netanyahu and Bourla talk, the chances of quickly signing an agreement with Pfizer will increase.

The report noted that both the Pfizer and Moderna vaccines must be refrigerated at a temperature of minus 70 degrees, and so far the Health Ministry does not appear to have started to prepare the infrastructure needed to store and distribute the vaccines in Israel.