Netanyahu: Israelis to begin vaccinating on December 27
Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu welcomes the first shipment of Pfizer's coronavirus vaccine to Ben-Gurion Airport, Israel, December 9, 2020
(photo credit: MARC ISRAEL SELLEM/THE JERUSALEM POST)
In a historic moment, the first batch of Pfizer coronavirus vaccines arrived in Israel on Wednesday morning – and Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu, who spoke at a short ceremony at the airport, said he would volunteer to be the first to be vaccinated.
A DHL flight from Brussels that carried over 100,000 doses of the recently created vaccine landed at Tel Aviv's Ben-Gurion Airport just after 9 a.m.
“What is important to me is that Israelis get vaccinated. I believe in vaccines... I intend to be the first in Israel to be vaccinated,” Netanyahu said.Health Minister Yuli Edelstein took the opportunity to thank medical teams who have been working to fight the spread of the virus, saying that they would soon receive the vaccine and would supervise their distribution.
“With God’s help, we will see an end to the virus crisis; we see light at the end of the tunnel,” he said, while urging the public to keep following regulations even as the vaccine becomes available.Recently, the virus infection numbers have been increasing. The Health Ministry reported 1,719 new coronavirus infections on Tuesday out of 69,778 tests which were administered - a 2.5% positivity rate. This brings the total number of active patients in the country to 14,905. Some 310 patients are in serious condition, 113 of whom are intubated. So far, 2,932 people have died of COVID-19 in Israel.
Netanyahu said it should not be taken for granted that a country as small as Israel would receive such a large quantity of the vaccine.The vaccine doses were transferred to a storage facility managed by Teva, the Israeli pharmaceutical company, which will be responsible for keeping the vaccines cold enough until they can be administered. They must be stored between minus 60-80 degrees centigrade and must be used within a few minutes of the time they are taken out of the freezer in order to be effective.Another cargo plane carrying about half a million doses of the vaccine is scheduled to arrive in Israel in the next few days, and a million more will arrive next week. Health Ministry director-general Chezy Levy informed the country’s health funds on Tuesday that they should prepare for the vaccinations to begin on December 20, The Jerusalem Post has confirmed.A senior health fund official said that the hospitals and funds will start vaccinating in small numbers at first, but are expected to begin larger-scale community vaccination right after Christmas, when a large shipment of Pfizer vaccines is supposed to arrive in Israel.The medical staff at Tel Aviv Sourasky Medical Center have signed up to be the first to be inoculated.On Tuesday, Sourasky director-general Prof. Ronni Gamzu confirmed to the Post that the hospital could begin inoculating even before the vaccine receives US Food and Drug Administration (FDA) approval. He said he could administer the vaccine because he received permission from the director-general of MASHAV, Israel’s Agency for International Development Cooperation.However, Levy told the Post that beginning vaccination in any place ahead of FDA approval was forbidden adding that the country has still not finalized the list of who would be prioritized to get it first.“We hope that in the coming days, there will be FDA approval,” Levy said.The FDA advisory panel is set to review the Pfizer vaccine on December 10.“The vaccine is safe for every person on an individual level and for us as a company at the national level,” Gamzu wrote on Twitter. “I am proud to receive this treatment first as part of the global technological advancement. I am convinced that leading by personal example will help gain public trust so all citizens take the vaccine for their health.”Gamzu was the target of sharp criticism from the Israel Medical Association, whose head, Zion Hagay, said in a statement that the move was “irresponsible” and will have the opposite of its intended effect – that it will “erode public trust.”
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