Netanyahu proposes international group to prepare vaccines for future threats

The proposed international governmental corporation would prevent being “at the mercy of market forces” in future pandemics, he said.

By Batya Jerenberg, World Israel News

Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu proposed Monday to a group of six heads of state that they join Israel in establishing a joint corporation to research and produce vaccines against future pandemics.

In their seventh video meeting on ways to handle the coronavirus that started sweeping through the world a year ago, Netanyahu explained his idea to the leaders of Greece, Austria, Denmark, Norway, Australia and the Czech Republic.

“We will encounter more viruses…. We must start planning for the next years,” Netanyahu said, suggesting that uniting their forces in a government-funded non-profit organization would enable them to “reach a reasonable economic and scientific volume.”

It could not be a private company, he said, just as a country’s air force isn’t private.

With the exception of Australia, which has 26 million residents, the countries are small but advanced, and this can be used to the world’s advantage, he said.

“Most of us have populations of five to 12 million people,” he noted. “I suggest we discuss the creation of an international corporation for research and production. We all have research, science and technological capabilities. We have to develop these abilities, we can’t be at the mercy of market forces.”

Such preparedness in terms of research, production and supply would first help their own countries and then the rest of the world, he said.

Israel has reportedly paid top dollar for millions of doses of the vaccine produced by Pfizer and BioNTech, which was the first to hit the world market under American FDA emergency-use protocols. It is also paying with information, having contracted with Pfizer to share weekly statistics on those who are ill and those who receive the vaccine.

The exact details of what data will be shared is unknown, however, worrying those who fear a breach of medical confidentiality. The agreement does state that Pfizer must abide by Israel’s Privacy Protection Law that prevents the pharmaceutical giant from using the data for anything other than improving public health, and it cannot expose any individual patient or allow any third party to do so.

The prime minister also urged the leaders to set personal examples and receive their inoculation publicly along with senior health officials, to generate public trust in the vaccine. Netanyahu and Health Minister Yuli Edelstein were the first to get the Pfizer vaccine in Israel.

Almost 30% of the population has already received the first inoculation, and over 300,000 have been given the second and final jab. Israel has also pre-bought millions of the vaccine varieties being produced by AstraZeneca and Moderna, with the latter expected to send its first major batch of more than half a million doses over the coming weeks.