“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 and said that they would soon receive the vaccine. He said he would supervise the distribution of the vaccines. “With God’s help, we will see an end to the virus crisis, we see light at the end of the tunnel,” he said, but urged the public to keep following regulations even as the vaccine becomes available.
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 doses of the vaccine were transferred to a storage facility managed by Teva, the Israeli pharmaceutical company. Teva will be responsible for keeping the vaccines cool 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 confirmed.
A senior health fund official said that the hospitals and the 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 and added that the country had 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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