Health Ministry officials said on Tuesday that Israel may have to tighten coronavirus restrictions within 7-10 days to prevent another general lockdown as cases surge nationwide.
Officials voiced their concerns during a meeting with hospital directors as the ministry prepares to start distributing the vaccine at several hospitals next Sunday. Although the hospitals taking part in the pilot have not been named, the country’s major medical centers, such as Sheba near Tel Aviv or Rambam in Haifa, are expected to receive the vaccines first.
Some directors leveled criticism at the Health Ministry after learning they will only start vaccinating their staff at a later stage. Heads of hospitals Barzilai, Wolfson and Hillel Yaffe insisted on starting vaccination along with the major hospitals.
Answering questions at the meeting, Health Ministry Director General Prof. Hezi Levy said that only Pfizer’s COVID-19 vaccine will be available in Israel during the first quarter of 2021.
Meanwhile, Health Minister Yuli Edelstein said during an interview on Russian media that Israel has not purchased the Russian-made coronavirus vaccine Sputink-V.
“We do not have much information about it, there were no negotiations, we did not get any documents so we couldn’t tell whether the Russian vaccine was good or not,” Edelstein said.
When asked whether Israel intends on purchasing Sputnik-V, Edelstein replied that Israel “was negotiating with other companies as well.”
U.S. Food and Drug Administration staff members did not raise new concerns over data on Moderna Inc’s coronavirus vaccine in documents made public on Tuesday, preparing the way for U.S. authorization of a second, easier-to-handle vaccine.
The FDA staff said a two-dose regimen of Moderna’s vaccine was highly effective in preventing confirmed cases of COVID-19. The comments were made in documents prepared for Thursday’s meeting of outside experts, who will discuss whether to endorse a U.S. emergency use authorization (EUA) for the Moderna vaccine.
The FDA reviewers did not raise any specific safety issues with using the vaccine in adults over the age of 18.
Israel signed a procurement agreement with the company for its COVID-19 vaccine candidate in the early days of the pandemic.
Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu and Health Minister Edelstein will be among the first to get vaccinated for COVID-19 on Saturday night in a move to strengthen the public’s trust in the safety of the vaccine.
It is not yet clear whether President Reuven Rivlin will also be among the first to be vaccinated, although he has expressed a willingness to do so.