Prime Minister Binyamin Netanyahu on Motzei Shabbos revealed the reason that Pfizer agreed to advance deliveries of their vaccines to Israel, allowing it to continue its lightening fast vaccination drive, the fastest and most efficient in the world.
Israel, with its universal public healthcare system and its advanced technological savvy, has the unique advantage of having all its citizens’ medical data digitally stored in a centralized storage bank. Israel’s four Kupot Cholim who are in fierce competition with each other for Israelis’ loyalty, encouraging them to provide top-quality care, are now competing with each other to efficiently provide vaccines as swiftly as possible.
The above factors, combined with Israel’s small and densely concentrated population, make it the perfect testing ground for the efficiency and safety of coronavirus vaccines. According to the agreement Netanyahu reached with Pfizer and Moderna, Israel will serve as a giant test trial, serving to fine-tune vaccination strategies for the rest of the world and assist the pharmas in their continuing research and development on coronavirus vaccines.
Israel committed to Pfizer to send its data on its vaccination program, including side effects, amount of time for antibody development broken down into factors such as age, gender and preexisting conditions, and other data. In return, Pfizer will deliver hundreds of thousands of vaccine doses to Israel every month beginning on Sunday, with over a million doses expected to be delivered by mid-March.
According to a Globes report, the idea of Israel serving as a giant test trial for coronavirus vaccinations in return for swift delivery of the vaccines was brought up by several health officials, including a researcher at the Israel Institute of Biological Research, which is developing Israel’s own vaccine, a Health Ministry senior doctor, and even a WHO official.
In November, Netanyahu participated in discussions with Israel’s National Security Council on how to persuade Pfizer to sell its vaccines to Israel before other countries. The first proposed idea was to appeal to the Jewish conscience of Pfizer CEO Albert Bourla. The second idea was presenting Israel’s unique capabilities to swiftly implement a vaccination campaign and provide data on it.
Discussions then ensued on who would present the idea to the CEOs of pharmaceutical companies, including Pfizer and Moderna, and it was decided that Netanyahu himself should do so backed by a medical professional.
After Netanyahu spoke with Bourla, Pfizer consulted with the WHO and closely investigated Israel’s health system, including the data systems at the Health Ministry’s coronavirus headquarters. The Globes report said that “they were impressed, among other things, by the cooperation of government ministries, laboratories and the IDF’s Home Front Command on testing and data transfer. They carefully analyzed the structure of Israel’s health system and the role played by the health funds and their deployment. They asked to look closely at the computerized systems built by the Home Front Command for gathering data from coronavirus patients and tracking their movements.”
Israel received its first large shipment from Pfizer in December and the next shipments were not due to arrive until February. “But Pfizer was very impressed with the success of the vaccination drive,” Globes said. “A senior WHO official told his counterpart in Israel’s Health Ministry that they were astonished by the pace of distribution and the ability to channel the vaccinations correctly. The official, who is German, spoke about the huge delays in his country where the federal government was not ready to delegate authority and every consignment of even a tray awaits for endless approvals and inefficient transportation.”
“The success of Israel’s first round of vaccinations brought about an agreement to speed up and bring forward the next consignments. Netanyahu himself and senior Health Ministry officials including Director-General Prof. Chezy Levy and others held talks with Pfizer CEO Albert Bourla and his team. They showed them the numbers and promised that Israel would provide them with all the data required for the world’s campaign against the virus including the mutations.”
“In addition to sending all the data to Pfizer, it was also agreed that the WHO would also receive all the information. A WHO delegation is expected in Israel in February to closely examine Israel’s vaccine distribution network as well as the impact of the vaccinations, side effects, and mainly the time it took for antibodies to develop, and the effects of the different vaccines will be compared.”