Hadassah Medical Center in Jerusalem has ordered 1.5 million doses of the Russian Sputnik V coronavirus vaccine, Israel’s Army Radio reported.
Hadassah Director Prof. Zeev Rotstein later confirmed the report but said that the order will only receive final approval if the vaccine is approved by Israel’s Health Ministry. The hospital submitted the data regarding the Russian vaccine to the Health Ministry this week. If approved, it would be the first coronavirus vaccine registered by the ministry and could potentially be administered to Israelis within two to three months.
Russia’s announcement of its coronavirus vaccine in August was met with great international skepticism about proof of its effectiveness and safety. Nevertheless, Rotstein says that “if we discount the Russian vaccine and then see that other countries are accepting it, we’ll have a lot of regrets. We have a lot of respect for the vaccine. The Hadassah clinic in Moscow is collaborating with the vaccine [trials], and our staff members are saying good things.”
“Right now they’re talking about safety and not effectiveness but when they end the trials, we’ll know with certainty if the vaccine is also effective. Trials by many other companies in the world were halted due to safety concerns, but the Russian trials continued and none of the volunteers grew horns [suffered untoward side effects].”
Rotstein believes that many people scoff at the possibility that the Russian vaccine could be effective and safe due to political considerations. “It’s a billion-dollar international battle. It’s not only Russia and the U.S. but also East Asia and Europe – everyone is trying to develop a coronavirus vaccine.”
“Mortality from the coronavirus is still rampant so we can’t discount this vaccine. If it’s proven ineffective upon completion of the trials, obviously we won’t use it. We have an excellent regulatory system [in Israel] and I trust it,” Rotstein asserted.
Hadassah has been collaborating with Russia on conducting the vaccine’s clinical trials in its clinic in Skolkovo, Moscow. Phase III clinical trials are currently underway on about 40,000 people in Russia and other countries, and should be complete in another month or two, according to Rotstein. Tens of thousands of volunteers have already received the vaccine.
When Russia announced in August that it was registering a coronavirus vaccine and Israeli media reports revealed that Hadassah was involved, Rotstein was asked why Russia announced the vaccine is effective before the completion of the clinical trials. He responded that the Phase 3 clinical trials are taking place at the same time as the registration of the vaccine.
“We are working in Moscow under the name Hadassah, but as Russians, not as Israelis,” Rotstein said. “They’re doing an excellent job. They work differently from us and we’re adapting ourselves to them.”
Health Minister Yuli Edelstein said at the time that Israel will hold discussions with Russia regarding the vaccine. “We are vigilantly monitoring every report, no matter which country,” he said.
“We have already discussed the reports from the research center in Russia about the development of the vaccine. If we’re convinced that it is a genuine product we will try to hold negotiations.”
(YWN Israel Desk – Jerusalem)