Netanyahu says Israel signed agreement with Pfizer for coronavirus vaccine

After realizing that Israel was not prepared for the purchase of coronavirus vaccines, Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu himself called the heads of Pfizer and pushed for a deal to be concluded.

al-monitor Pfizer headquarters, New York, Nov. 9, 2020. Photo by David Dee Delgado/Getty Images.

Nov 13, 2020

Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu announced Nov. 13 the signing of an agreement with US company Pfizer over the purchase of coronavirus vaccines. Speaking at a joint press conference with Health Minister Yuli Edelstein, Netanyahu said, “This is a great day for the State of Israel, a great day on the road to victory over the coronavirus. At the moment we are signing the agreement with Pfizer. The ambition is that the supply will start in January and the supply will increase. It depends on the approval of the US and Israeli health authorities. Our national mission is to enable vaccination of every person in Israel."

Netanyahu also said that Israel has agreements with other "promising companies" and is working on more. 

Netanyahu wrote on Twitter, "At these moments, we are signing the agreement with Pfizer to receive 8 million doses of vaccine for 4 million Israeli citizens."

Reportedly, Israel will pay 120 million Israeli shekels ($35 million) in advance next week. The agreement does not include a full commitment by Pfizer to supply the vaccines to Israel, but rather the intention to do so "according to the circumstances." Israeli news site Ynet reported that in case the vaccine is not supplied, the cash advance will be returned.

Director General of the Health Ministry, professor Chezy Levy, said this morning that he hopes the registration of the vaccine and its preparation for transportation would be concluded by the end of the year, but warned that it will arrive in Israel little at a time. "Even if the first doses of the vaccine will arrive in January, it will not be for all of the 4 million people who are expected to be vaccinated. I estimate that this will happen in the first and second quarters of 2021," Levy told the Israely army radio station.

On Nov. 12, Netanyahu announced that Pfizer agreed to sell Israel the vaccine and that it will arrive in Israel in January. "It [the supply] will only grow from month to month. We are also looking to acquire vaccines from other sources. The more the merrier," said Netanyahu in a video message.

Netanyahu continued, “I reported today during the coronavirus Cabinet meeting that I spoke again last night with Pfizer CEO Albert Bourla. Together with the legal advisers of both parties, we removed the last obstacle to signing a contract with Pfizer. We will get these vaccines just like other leading countries in the world. It will start in January, and increase from month to month."

Netanyahu was apparently referring to growing criticism in Israel on the authorities allegedly not moving ahead in time for future purchase of the vaccine. Some reports had criticized the health authorities for allegedly privileging an agreement with the company Moderna, instead of advancing negotiations with Pfizer. According to these reports, the agreement with Pfizer was delayed over Israeli insistence on some minor clauses. It was only when Pfizer threatened to cancel the vaccine quota reserved for Israel that Netanyahu stepped in and withdrew Israel’s insistence. Israeli authorities did not confirm this information.

The announcements by Netanyahu came on the backdrop of worrying signs that the coronavirus infection rate is actually increasing in Israel. The Coronavirus National Information and Knowledge Center said in its daily report Nov. 13, "If the present trend continues in light of the easing [of restrictions] that has been implemented and those that are on the table, a renewed rise in morbidity is expected in the coming days." The Health Ministry reported this morning 815 COVID-19 cases.

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