Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu, in a speech at Ben Gurion Airport, said that he would be the first person in Israel to receive the coronavirus vaccine as part of a campaign to encourage inoculation.
“What’s important to me is that people of Israel get vaccinated. I believe in this vaccine. I want the people of Israel to get vaccinated and so I will be first,” Netanyahu said.
“I have been the prime minister of Israel for quite a few years, and this is one of the most exciting moments,” he said. “I worked hard for long months with the Health Ministry and other organizations to find a solution to the pandemic and now you see the forklift unloading the first vaccines of millions that will come for the people of Israel.”
The first shipment is something of a pilot programme, to practise the transit and storage of the vaccines, which must be stored at -70°C (-94°F) and used within five days of their removal from cold storage.
On Tuesday evening, Netanyahu spoke with Pfizer CEO Albert Bourla and thanked him for the assistance in securing the vaccine as well as reaching an agreement on further supplies, the Prime Minister’s Office said in a statement without providing any further details quantities.
Netanyahu announced last month that Israel had signed a deal with Pfizer to purchase eight million doses of the vaccine, enough to inoculate four million Israelis. Last week, it was reported that Israel was set to receive up to four million doses by the end of this month.The US Food and Drug Administration will review Pfizer’s trial data later this week. If it approves the vaccine for use, Israeli officials are expected to give it their okay.
One Israeli hospital, Tel Aviv’s Sourasky Medical Centre, has asked for special permission to vaccinate its staff on the basis of Britain’s earlier authorization if shots became available before FDA approval. However, top Health Ministry officials said this was unlikely to happen.
The Health Ministry has reportedly told Israel’s health maintenance organizations that December 20 is the target date to begin vaccinating Israelis against COVID-19.
A national vaccine storage and distribution centre has been set up in the southern Negev desert region, where the millions of doses of vaccines that Israel has ordered are to be warehoused and then sent around the country.
The shipment came a day after the United Kingdom became the first country in the Western world to begin a mass vaccination program using the Pfizer vaccine