Israel’s Health Ministry on Friday reached an understanding with Swedish-British pharmaceutical company AstraZeneca to receive millions of doses of its SARS-CoV-2 vaccine, and the two parties are discussing the final details of the agreement, according to a joint statement by the Prime Minister’s Office, the Health Ministry and AstraZeneca.

According to the agreement, AstraZeneca will provide Israel with approximately 10 million doses of its AZD1222 vaccine, sufficient to vaccinate 5 million people. While the pandemic is ongoing, the vaccine will be sold according to a nonprofit model, according to the statement.

The first supply is expected to reach Israel in the first half of 2021, subject to the approval of the regulatory authorities in Europe, the United States and Israel.

Israel is currently negotiating multiple vaccine-related deals with the aim of securing enough vaccines to treat every Israeli who wishes to be vaccinated. The statement emphasized that despite media reports to the contrary, vaccination will be on a strictly voluntary basis.

Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu called the AstraZeneca deal “another important achievement for Israel,” according to the statement.

“We want to make sure that anyone who wishes to be vaccinated will be able to do so as soon as possible. It is better to overachieve in this case,” said Netanyahu.

Meanwhile, it is unclear whether children will be eligible for treatment with vaccines purchased from Pfizer, Moderna or AstraZeneca, as none of the companies included children under the age of 12 in their clinical trials.

“Including children in such studies is more complex in terms of ethical approvals. Also, most children who contract the virus recover easily, therefore they are not common participants in COVID-19 vaccine trials. I suppose the study will be expanded later,” Dr. Zachi Grossman, president of the Israel Ambulatory Pediatric Association, told Israel Hayom.

“I can’t imagine anyone giving a child a vaccine that has only been tested on adults,” he added.

The Pediatric Association has asked the Health Ministry to include its specialists in the team that will regulate the vaccination process, in light of their experience in dealing with those who are hesitant or outright refuse to be vaccinated.

“A significant part of the population is hesitant or opposed to vaccination. The polls state that 20 percent of the population does not intend to get vaccinated. There is a lot of misinformation in the media and on social networks,” said Grossman.

The Health Ministry’s Advisory Committee on Infectious Diseases is currently discussing the prioritization of risk groups. The ministry’s pandemic task force has held a similar discussion about at-risk populations and mentioned health-care workers, including nursing home workers, as an additional group.

This article first appeared in Israel Hayom.


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