Israel is actively seeking to cancel its deal to procure 10 million doses of the AstraZeneca vaccine against Covid-19, Ministry of Health director general Prof. Hezi Levi and National Coronavirus Project Coordinator Prof. Nachman Ash have both told "Galei Zahal Israel Army Radio."
Israel signed the deal with the British pharmaceutical company last year, while the vaccine was still in the trial stages. No financial details about the deal have been disclosed, although it is known that each dose of the vaccine is considerably cheaper than the Pfizer and Moderna Covid vaccines.
Regardless of whether Israel is legally able to cancel the deal, it will not be using the AstraZeneca vaccines. In a data for doses deal with Pfizer, Israel has been able to vaccinate nearly 5.4 million people including 5 million with two doses, out of a population of 9.3 million, with nearly 3 million of its population under 16 and ineligible for the inoculation. Israel has vaccinated by far the highest proportion of its population than any other country in the world and as a result Covid-19 has faded fast here, proving the efficacy of the Pfizer vaccine.
The AstraZeneca vaccine is yet to receive approval from the US Food and Drug Administration (FDA) and thus cannot be used in Israel. There have been muddled clinical trial results and it may well be that the vaccine is only 70% successful, compared with over 90% for the Pfizer and Moderna vaccines. In addition, the AstraZeneca vaccine has been linked to a rare blood clot side effect, which has resulted in the EU recommending it is only used for older people, who are at much higher risk to Covid than to the rare blood clotting.
Although it has to date used only Pfizer vaccines, as part of its deal with Pfizer, which has allowed Israel to become an example to the world of how the vaccine can defeat the virus, Israel is not prepared to put all its eggs in the Pfizer vaccine basket. Earlier this week Israel announced procurement of 10 million more Pfizer vaccine doses and 8 million from Moderna, to provide all its Covid vaccine needs through until the end of 2022, assuming two more boosted shots per person may be needed, adapted to any variants that might emerge. AstraZeneca is not in Israel's plans.
One of the main reasons why AstraZeneca is reportedly unprepared to cancel the deal with Israel is that with Israel seen as the world leader in the vaccination rollout, a procurement cancellation would be another blow to the vaccine's image.
AstraZeneca is reluctant to cancel its deal with Israel, even though it has been unable to keep up with demand. There have been reports that Israel had been considering cutting its losses by selling the vaccines onto other countries. But this could be problematic in terms of Israel's legal liability in the event of any problems with the vaccines.
Published by Globes, Israel business news - en.globes.co.il - on April 22, 2021
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