Israel will receive a shipment of Moderna coronavirus vaccines in the coming days, the pharma company's chief medical officer Dr. Tal Zaks told Ynet on Wednesday, but did not details the exact number of doses.
Zaks, who is Israeli, made the announcement two days after the country authorized the use of the Moderna vaccine in its nationwide vaccination campaign.
The company says its vaccine was 94.5% efficient in clinical trials, similar to the efficacy rate of the Pfizer vaccine that Israel has been using since it started its high-speed vaccination rollout last month.
"I am very proud as an Israeli that Israel is one of the first countries in the world to mobilize for the early purchase of all vaccines, both ours and Pfizer’s, and is at the forefront today in terms of the ability to vaccinate its citizens,” said Zaks.
“Our vaccine has some logistical advantages: it can be kept in a less refrigerated environment and even at room temperature for a few hours.”
The Pfizer vaccine has posed some distribution challenges as it must be stored at -70°C.
Zaks also praised Israel’s vaccination drive, saying it could “set an example for many health ministries around the world.”
He also responded coolly to the proposal by Health Ministry No. 2 Prof. Itamar Grotto, who called for Israel to administer just one dose of the vaccine per person instead of the two doses that both Moderna and Pfizer say is vital to achieve immunity to the virus.
“It is a gamble that is not based on existing data," Zaks said. "The same goes for mixing the vaccines of the two companies. No one has done research on its effectiveness.
“I can understand where such a suggestion comes from; health ministries are trying to immunize as many people as possible in the least amount of time,” he said.
“But as a scientist I think it is imperative we follow the scientific data, which shows that four weeks after the two vaccinations, the effectiveness of the inoculation is extremely high.”
Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu said Wednesday that the first shipment of Moderna vaccines would arrive in Israel on Thursday. It was earmarked, the prime minister said, for those who would find it difficult to go to a medical center to receive it.
"We will give the vaccines to those who cannot reach the clinics and must remain at home," he said.
"This is Moderna's first shipment, there will be more, and I am working to bring millions more vaccines for Israeli citizens so we can get out of the coronavirus pandemic," Netanyahu said.
While Israel is among the countries who have vaccinated the highest proportion of their populations, Israel's two largest health funds said Tuesday that they would no longer schedule new appointments for administer the first dose of the vaccine due to lack of vials.
Health Minister Yuli Edelstein has pledged that everyone who has received the first dose of the vaccine will receive the second as well.