Netanyahu speaks to Pfizer head without telling PM, pushes for third vaccine

Health officials remain skeptical about the need for a third dose as deaths remain at one per day even during the current surge of the Delta variant.

By Meira Svirsky, World Israel News

Former prime minister and now opposition leader Benjamin Netanyahu announced on Wednesday that he had spoken with the CEOs of Pfizer as well as other “experts” about what he calls the “immediate” need for a third dose of the COVID-19 vaccine to be given to the over-50 population.

The conversations with the CEO’s raised eyebrows after Hebrew media reported that the Netanyahu’s Likud party leaked details of the conversations, which they said took place without current Prime Minister Naftali Bennett’s knowledge.

Netanyahu’s office later clarified in a statement that the heads of Pfizer and Moderna had updated him on their supply of vaccines as well as the implications of the Delta variant.

“We do not need this assistance. I respect [Netanyahu’s] opinion, but the decision is up to the professionals. We have a direct relationship with Pfizer and Moderna,” Nachman Ash, director-general of Israel’s health ministry, told Kan public broadcaster Thursday.

In a video released on social media, Netanyahu said, “In the last few days I spoke twice with my friend, Pfizer CEO Albert Bourla. I also talked to other experts. I have come to the conclusion that the State of Israel must immediately order millions of vaccines and it must start immediately to give out the third vaccine dose to the adult population.”

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In an impassioned plea, the former PM, who successfully secured millions of doses of the Pfizer vaccine for the Israeli population when vaccines were scarce, said, “This is the population, those over the age of 50, who are at risk, at risk for serious illness or death.

“And giving the third vaccine dose, not to 200,000 people but to two million people, that is the only way to protect this population, the only way to protect the great success that we brought in making Israel the first country in the world to get out of the coronavirus pandemic.”

“Without a third vaccine dose, there is no effective way to protect human life and to maintain an open and growing economy,” he added.

However, according to data released by Israel’s Ministry of Health in early July, the Pfizer vaccine is 93 percent effective in preventing hospitalization and serious symptoms resulting from the Delta variant. While current figures show the vaccine is only 64 percent effective in preventing the variant, some health officials are questioning the accuracy of those figures.

At present, Israel as well as U.S. health officials say that a third dose is unnecessary. Israel has begun offering a third dose to the immunocompromised, however.

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While cases of the virus from the Delta variant have surged in Israel since July 16, serious cases have remained low. Moreover, since June 23, when only 20 new cases were diagnosed, deaths per day have remained at an average of one person. On Wednesday, 1,336 new cases of the virus were confirmed by the Health Ministry.