Israel no longer wants AstraZeneca’s COVID-19 vaccine and is exploring with the company whether a big shipment in the pipeline could be sent elsewhere, Israel’s pandemic coordinator said Wednesday.
“We are trying to find the best solution. After all, we don’t want [the vaccines] to get here and have to throw them into the trash,” coronavirus czar Prof. Nachman Ash told Army Radio, saying Israel’s needs were being met by other suppliers.
In his remarks, Ash made no reference to AstraZeneca’s vaccine having been associated with very rare blood clots in Europe. Many countries there resumed administering it after the European Union’s drug watchdog said benefits outweighed risks.
Israel cast a wide net last year when trying to secure vaccine doses at the height of the pandemic and pre-ordered from a number of companies.
It largely settled on the Pfizer/BioNTech vaccine, launching one of the world’s swiftest rollouts. COVID-19 infections in Israel have dropped dramatically and the economy has largely reopened.
Israel is also buying the COVID-19 vaccines from Moderna, which uses a similar messenger RNA (mRNA) technology.
Ash said that with supplies secure through 2022, Israel no longer required the 10 million doses it agreed to purchase from AstraZeneca.
“They can certainly be used in other places in the world. At the moment, we are trying to find, along with the company, the best way to do this,” he said.
“We believe it would be best if they [the vaccines] did not come to Israel and we agree with the company on some sort of way to divert them elsewhere.”
Officials at AstraZeneca had no immediate comment.
Around 81% of Israeli citizens or residents over 16 - the age group eligible for the Pfizer/BioNTech vaccine in Israel - have received both doses.
Some 167,000 of the 5.2 million Palestinians in the West Bank and Islamist Hamas-run Gaza have had at least one dose of vaccine, with supplies coming in from Israel, Russia, the United Arab Emirates, the global COVAX vaccine-sharing program and China.