Coronavirus vaccination: Everything you need to know

Published date27 November 2020
Publication titleJerusalem Post, The: Web Edition Articles (Israel)
With a myriad of questions and unknown entities surrounding the various options that could soon be available, here is The Jerusalem Post's guide to everything you need to know about coronavirus vaccination and how and when Israelis will benefit from it.

What is the vaccine timeline for Israel?

Reports in recent days have indicated that some doses of the Pfizer vaccine candidate, which is currently undergoing FDA Emergency Use Authorization, could arrive in the country as early as December. However, as Health Ministry director-general Chezy Levy explained on Wednesday, wide-scale vaccination can be expected only by late spring 2021.

The first vaccine to arrive in Israel will likely be Pfizer, followed by Moderna's and soon after AstraZeneca's, though an announcement by AstraZeneca on Thursday - that it is likely to run additional trials - could delay the approval.

Israel also has a contract with another American company, Arcturus Therapeutics, which is now completing its Phase I human trial which showed promising results. The company has committed four million doses to Israel. Earlier this month, the company's CEO, Joseph Payne, told the Post that the company expects to start distributing its COVID-19 vaccine candidate in the first quarter of next year.

Israel's own vaccine candidate, Brilife, which is being developed by the Israel Institute for Biological Research, is expected to provide an interim analysis of its Phase III human trial by summer 2021 and be able to apply for emergency use approval then.

"If we assume the vaccines will be here in any quantity around April or May, and then they will be gradually distributed to specific populations," explained Amit Asa, deputy director of the Samson Assuta Ashdod Hospital, "I would say the entire country could not be vaccinated before the end of 2021."

How will the vaccines be stored and distributed?

The vaccines will arrive in the country in batches and likely be stored at "vaccine farms," central storage facilities, from where they will be dispatched to health funds and hospitals across the country.

On Thursday, Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu and Health Minister Yuli Edelstein visited the Teva SLE Logistic Center in Shoham, one of the country's largest and most advanced centers for storing and transporting medicines and medical equipment. The government is likely to store some or all of the vaccines there, especially those that come from Pfizer and Moderna, which must be kept in extremely cold conditions – negative 70 degrees Celsius and negative 20 degrees, respectively.

Asa said that from there, they will be transferred to the health funds in large batches.

"The health funds are experienced in vaccinating large numbers of people in short periods of time," he explained, noting that some 2.5 million Israelis are vaccinated against influenza each year in a matter of about two months.

He added that the Pfizer vaccine can be stored for five days in a refrigerator after being removed from the deep freeze. "Five days is more than enough to vaccinate large numbers of people. It will not be simple, but it is certainly feasible."

Who is going to be vaccinated first?

A special committee is currently under way to determine who should receive priority vaccination. According to Cyrille Cohen, head of the immunotherapy laboratory at Bar-Ilan University, the list is likely to look similar to the flu vaccine with a few exceptions.

Medical personnel should be first, followed by the elderly and people with chronic diseases that put them at high risk of severe COVID-19. Next would be people who come into regular contact with large groups of people, teachers and prisoners, followed by pregnant women and babies, as well as senior center staff. Finally, everyone else will get...

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