The head of the task force for vaccination efforts in the Health Ministry, Dr. Uri Feinstein, said Tuesday that coronavirus vaccines will arrive in Israel in a matter of weeks.
Speaking to the Knesset State Control Committee, Feinstein said the first batch will contain a relatively small amount of shots, but more will arrive later in numbers sufficient to inoculate anyone wishing to receive the vaccine.
The senior health official told the members of Knesset that only those vaccines that receive the approval of the U.S. Food and Drug Administration will be provided to Israelis, alluding to the Russian-made vaccine that was ordered by Hadassah Medical Center in Jerusalem but will not be approved by the Health Ministry.
Hadassah Director-General Prof. Zeev Rotstein, who also attended the Knesset meeting, said the human trials for the vaccine developed by the Israel Institute for Biological Research have thus far not shown any adverse side effects.
"I hope down the road we can prove efficacy as well," Rotstein said.
Defense Ministry representative Yoav Gal told legislators the cost of developing a vaccine in Israel is approximately half a billion shekels.
"A week-long lockdown costs more than developing a vaccine," he said.
Israel has signed an agreement with the Moderna pharmaceutical company that ensures one million of Israeli citizens will receive its vaccine, and a second agreement with Pfizer to supply vaccines for an additional four million people.
The first to receive the vaccines are expected to be medical professionals and the elderly population, but how they will be disseminated to the public is still a matter of debate between the Health Ministry and health maintenance organizations.
In one scenario being discussed by officials, HMOs will invite members of the public to receive their shots in dedicated locations, covering approximately 500,000 people, under the supervision of the Health Ministry.
Mali Kusha, the chief nursing office at Meuhedet Health Services, said her organization was preparing to vaccinate people at 60 separate locations across the country.
"I worry that if there is an overlap of flu shots and the coronavirus vaccines we may need more manpower," she said.
"We will have to bring the issue to the government to decide on whether to train medics in advance," she added, warning that some members of the ultra-Orthodox and Arab communities have already expressed their reluctance to receive the vaccine that she said was due to the spread of conspiracy theories.
First published: 14:07 , 12.01.20