Israel’s Health Ministry approved the coronavirus vaccine of US biotech company Moderna, the company stated overnight Monday.
There have been differing reports about when the Moderna vaccines will be shipped to Israel, with the company and some health officials saying that the first shipment will arrive in approximately two weeks, two months ahead of the scheduled delivery in March. Other reports said that the vaccines won’t arrive until March with the exception of about 100,000 doses. Health Minister Yuli Edelstein confirmed the latter report on Tuesday afternoon, saying that the ministry has no indication that the Moderna vaccines will arrive earlier than March.
This is important information for Israel as it is about to temporarily halt its vaccination program due to a shortage of Pfizer/BioNTech vaccines. Additional deliveries of Pfizer vaccines aren’t scheduled to arrive in Israel until February although Israel has been engaging in negotiations with the company to try to advance the deliveries to January. Maccabi Healthcare Services, Israel’s second-largest healthcare fund announced on Tuesday that it will stop administering the first dose of the vaccines as of next week.
“This is a landmark moment in our company’s history and in the global fight against COVID-19,” said Stéphane Bancel, Chief Executive Officer of Moderna.
“This is the third regulatory authorization for the COVID-19 vaccine Moderna, and the first outside of North America,” Bancel said. “I want to thank the Ministry of Health of Israel for their efforts, as their team has worked tirelessly alongside ours to ensure a timely authorization of this vaccine.”
Israel will receive 6 million doses of the Moderna vaccines, enough to vaccinate 3 million Israelis.
Moderna’s chief medical officer, Tal Zaks, is Israeli and in August, he told Ynet that the Israeli government has ensured that Israeli citizens can receive Moderna’s coronavirus vaccine as soon as it’s ready.
In November, following Moderna’s announcement that its vaccine was 94.5% effective, Zaks told Globes that Israel was one of the first countries that believed in them and the advance that Israel paid them aided the company in achieving its goal.
Prime Minister Binyamin Netanyahu was particularly excited by Moderna’s success since he invested a large sum of money in the Moderna vaccines, despite warnings from others that it was a risky gamble.
Although Moderna’s vaccine uses messenger RNA (mRNA) technology similar to the Pfizer-BioNTech vaccine, it does not need to be refrigerated at extremely low temperatures in special freezers. The Moderna vaccines can be stored at -15°C (versus 70°C required for Pfizer vaccines) in regular freezers. Furthermore, Moderna vaccines can be used for 30 days after thawing if refrigerated, unlike Pfizer vaccines which must be used within five days after thawing.
(YWN Israel Desk – Jerusalem)