Israel may not be able to provide next vaccine round – COVID czar

Israel may not be able to provide next vaccine round – COVID czar, Israel currently has enough doses to inoculate anyone over 16 who wants the jab.

If Israel does not speedily sign purchase agreements for NIS 3.5 billion worth of additional vaccines, the country may not be able to vaccinate its children or provide citizens with booster shots against vaccine-resistant variants, or if immunity wanes, coronavirus commissioner Prof. Nachman Ash told The Jerusalem Post on Tuesday.

“There is real competition to buy vaccines by countries around the world,” Ash said. “We want to reserve our place at the top of the list and not be pushed down to the end so that we cannot get them [vaccines] when they are most needed.”

Israel may not be able to provide next vaccine round – COVID czar

He said that Israel currently has enough doses to inoculate anyone over 16 who wants the jab. The contracts are forward-looking – “required for we don’t know when” – but likely in the next year or two.

“Countries are really struggling to get them now and they all want to secure future vaccines. As such, we need to move fast,” he said.

Ash’s warning came after a cabinet meeting that was set to take place on Monday, and at which ministers were likely to approve the purchase of the requested vaccines, was postponed indefinitely due to a conflict between Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu and Alternate Prime Minister Benny Gantz.

Gantz canceled the meeting because of Netanyahu’s refusal to approve the permanent appointment of a justice minister. Gantz’s term as acting justice minister is set to end April 5.

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The government was also expected to approve an additional NIS 3.5b. in funds for the health system.

Following the meeting, Health Ministry Director-General Chezy Levy attacked the politicization of the coronavirus and warned that the delay could both harm Israel’s ability to procure future vaccines and would result in a “lack of budget for day-to-day management of the fight against coronavirus.”

However, by Tuesday night, Gantz and Netanyahu again politicized the pandemic.

“There are those who delay the government’s approval of the purchase of these additional vaccines and it is very dangerous,” Netanyahu said, warning, like Ash, that Israel would lose its place in the vaccine queue. “It’s dangerous to health, dangerous to the economy. Politics must be put aside and the government must immediately approve the purchase of the additional vaccines.”

He added that he expected that the new vaccine order would arrive in time to vaccinate the country’s children.

Gantz responded that the prime minister is “suffocating our democracy in order to escape justice, and trying to leave the State of Israel without a justice minister. If the state is more important to you than your trial, let’s convene the government and approve everything that needs to be approved today.”

After the government votes, the Knesset will also need to approve the purchase.

Earlier in the day, the Health Ministry put out an official statement cautioning the public that “in Israel there is stock only for the current round of vaccinations” and therefore “there is an important need to purchase millions of additional vaccines to prepare for various scenarios.”

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“Thanks to the vaccines, Israel is the first to emerge from the coronavirus crisis; thanks to the procurement we seek to make, Israel will continue to be protected,” the ministry concluded.

More than 5.2 million Israelis have received at least one dose of the vaccine, among them more than 4.7 million have received both doses.

Health officials are still unsure about how long the vaccines will last and they cannot know if there will be a variant that requires a booster. The NIS 3.5 billion is meant to purchase 36 million more vaccines, enough to inoculate every citizen eligible to get the jab twice a year for the next two years.

Israel hit the lowest percentage of positive daily cases since the summer, with 0.9% on Tuesday, the Health Ministry reported. Only 358 people were diagnosed with the virus on Monday, the ministry reported Tuesday morning.

Moreover, Israel no longer has any “red zones.” There are a limited number of orange zones; the rest are green and yellow.

The Coronavirus Knowledge and Information Center reported that the reproduction rate – also known as the “R” – was down to 0.53.

Israel’s coronavirus death toll stood at 6,189.

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