Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu on Friday announced that Israel signed a deal with Pfizer to purchase millions of coronavirus vaccine shots, days after the US pharmaceutical firm said data suggested the vaccine was 90% effective at preventing Covid-19.
As part of the agreement with Pfizer, Netanyahu said Israel would receive eight million doses of the vaccine, enough to inoculate four million Israelis. Netanyahu expressed hope that Pfizer would begin supplying the vaccine in January, pending authorization from health officials in the United States and Israel.
“This is a great day for Israel and a great day for our victory over the coronavirus,” Netanyahu said in a televised statement at IDF military headquarters in Tel Aviv.
However, the Ynet news site reported that the deal does not obligate Pfizer to supply the vaccines but only states that it intends to do so “according to circumstances.” If it fails to supply them, the company will return Israel’s advance.
The report further said Israel will pay the $35 million advance next week, and another $202 million when the first vaccines arrive. Pfizer will then provide hundreds of thousands of vaccines every month for the duration of 2021.
Netanyahu noted that Israel has signed supply agreements with other firms developing vaccines and said that “the national mission” was to ensure every Israeli is vaccinated against the coronavirus. He also said he was lobbying world leaders to ensure Israel would be among the first countries to receive vaccines, “so we won’t be pushed back in line.”
Netanyahu thanked Albert Bourla, the CEO of Pfizer, with whom he spoke on the phone several times in recent days.
“The conversations between us led to the removal of the final obstacles and the closing of the deal,” he said.
With the vaccine not expected to be available for another few months, Netanyahu urged Israelis to continue following the government’s guidelines for preventing the spread of the virus.
“If we continue to work together… we’ll be among the first in the world to get out of the coronavirus crisis. That is the situation I’m continually striving for,” he said.
Speaking after Netanyahu, Health Minister Yuli Edelstein said he hoped “significant quantities” of the vaccine would begin arriving in early 2021.
“This is very important but as I’ve said, we must not become complacent. There is no vaccine for complacency,” Edelstein said, calling on Israelis to wear masks and observe social distancing rules.
Pfizer and its German partner BioNTech confirmed the deal with Israel in a joint statement late Thursday.
Bourla said in a statement: “Having just reached a critical milestone in our vaccine development program, the world is beginning to feel a sense of hope that a potential vaccine could actually help end this devastating global pandemic. Today we finalized a critical supply agreement with the government of Israel that will provide the Israeli people with access to a COVID-19 vaccine once approved by regulatory authorities.”
Pfizer announced Monday that initial data indicated the vaccine it is developing with BioNTech is 90% effective at preventing COVID-19, sparking optimism inoculations against the novel coronavirus could soon be available.
However, its storage and transport require exceedingly cold temperatures, creating intense logistical complications.
Israel has deals with two other pharmaceutical firms for vaccines, and is developing its own version as well, but had reportedly not been intensively engaged in talks with Pfizer before Monday’s announcement, putting it at a disadvantage.