Photo Credit: Koby Gideon / GPO
Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu in live broadcast from his office in Jerusalem.

Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu told Israelis on Tuesday in a joint briefing with Health Minister Yuli Edelstein to “get your shoulders ready and your children,” for the next round of coronavirus vaccine booster shots in another half year.

Speaking in a live broadcast from his office in Jerusalem, Netanyahu said he had come to the briefing “from a discussion with the Health Minister and health system people, following my agreement with the CEOs of Pfizer and Moderna on the additional supply of another 16 million vaccines for the citizens of Israel,” Netanyahu said.

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“We are preparing for another vaccines campaign in around six months so get your shoulders ready and your children because we estimate that by then vaccines will be approved for children,” Netanyahu said.

The Pfizer BioNTech vaccine received updated emergency approval this past February from the US Food and Drug Administration (FDA) for administering its vaccine to teens age 16 and older.

Last month, Pfizer BioNTech announced “positive topline results” in a clinical trial of the vaccine in participants ages 12 to 15. The vaccine “demonstrated 100 percent efficacy and robust antibody responses, exceeding those reported in trial of vaccinated 16 to 25 year old participants in an earlier analysis, and was well tolerated,” the company said in a statement.

In addition, the company said it had dosed the first healthy children in a global study to “further evaluate the safety, tolerability, and immunogenicity of the Pfizer-BioNTech COVID-19 vaccine in children 6 months to 11 years of age. The study is evaluating the safety, tolerability, and immunogenicity of the Pfizer-BioNTech COVID-19 vaccine on a two-dose schedule (approximately 21 days apart) in three age groups: children aged 5 to 11 years, 2 to 5 years, and 6 months to 2 years,” the company said.

There could always be a surprise by a new variant, “the Indian or some other,” Netanyahu noted. However, he said he believes “the exit from the coronavirus up until today and our avoidance of the coronavirus in the future is assured as long as there is no such surprise.”

Unsurprisingly, one of the ways he said Israel can “prevent these surprises” is to “tighten our outer envelope.”

Extensive discussions among Israeli health officials as well as at the ministry are continuing, Netanyahu said, with officials looking at the various possibilities described by Health Minister Yuli Edelstein.

“We are also discussing them vis-a-vis our foreign relations and with several countries,” the prime minister said.

Despite the relaxation of the outdoors mask requirement and the full return of children to their schools, Netanyahu said, “My approach and that of the health system is that it is necessary to tighten because we are in a reality that is still completely unclear.”

Netanyahu also spoke about his struggle with Blue & White party leader Benny Gantz, who held up the purchase of the vaccine doses. “We obtained vaccines thanks to my personal commitment to the Pfizer and Moderna leaders,” he said. “I explained to them that I was simply blocked from buying vaccines by the government.”

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Hana Levi Julian is a Middle East news analyst with a degree in Mass Communication and Journalism from Southern Connecticut State University. A past columnist with The Jewish Press and senior editor at Arutz 7, Ms. Julian has written for Babble.com, Chabad.org and other media outlets, in addition to her years working in broadcast journalism.
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