Israeli President Reuven Rivlin was on hand at the Barzilai Medical Center in Ashkelon on Tuesday to meet with the first person to receive Israel’s BriLife COVID-19 vaccine as part of its expanded phase II trial.

While Israel is already in the midst of a nationwide vaccination campaign, having administered the first dose of Pfizer’s BioNTech vaccine to nearly 1.5 million Israelis in the past two weeks—and with millions of doses of Moderna’s vaccine on the way—Rivlin stressed the importance of the Israel Institute for Biological Research’s locally developed vaccine.

“The Israeli vaccine developed by the IIBR is not just a way of protecting ourselves from the virus. It is also our way of continuing to develop and improve our innovation and development mechanisms,” he said.

“More than once during this crisis, we have found that this virus is unpredictable and adaptable, so that continued research and development here at home, blue and white, is of strategic value. Scientific and biological independence is a strategic asset,” he added.

The first doses of the IIBR vaccine were administered on Nov. 1 at Sheba Medical Center at Tel Hashomer and Hadassah University Medical Center in Jerusalem, kicking off the vaccine’s phase I trial. Phase II trials began at Sheba on Dec. 28, and final preparations are now underway for five more volunteers to arrive at Barzilai to participate.

So far, 350 potential volunteers have registered, according to an official statement.

The president concluded his remarks by thanking Barzilai Medical Center, the medical teams—the doctors and nurses, and the technical staff—for their work and dedication.

JNS

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