Photo Credit: Marc Israel Sellem/POOL
Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu pointing at the DHL freight plane transporting the first batch of Pfizer vaccines to Ben Gurion Airport, December 9 2020.

Israel’s Ministry of Health on Sunday published the contract that it signed earlier this month with Pfizer for the additional delivery to the country of the pharmaceutical giant’s BioNTech COVID-19 vaccines. The first shipment arrived on Dec. 9, following a $237.5 million deal  for 8 million doses.

The stated objective of the Jan. 6 “Real-World Epidemiological Evidence Collaboration Agreement”—as part of what Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu dubbed “Operation Back to Life”—is “to measure and analyze epidemiological data arising from the product rollout, to determine whether herd immunity is achieved after reaching a certain percentage of vaccination coverage in Israel.”

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Under the terms of the contract, some clauses of which are redacted, the Health Ministry will regularly report to Pfizer on the information it gleans on the coronavirus pandemic and vaccination status in Israel.

The agreement states that “Pfizer will collaborate with the MoH … by providing … technical knowledge and subject matter expertise in infectious disease, respiratory disease, vaccines, epidemiology, infectious disease modeling, data analysis and public health, and by providing the MoH with the Pfizer data,” while the MoH “will share aggregate project data with Pfizer,” which the two will analyze jointly.

The document also guarantees patients’ confidentiality, as follows: “No identifiable health information shall be shared between the parties, and the MoH shall provide the project data solely in a form rendered anonymized … such that [it] could not reasonably used to re-identify the identity of an individual.”

Five days after the signing of the agreement, Netanyahu and Health Minister Yuli Edelstein were on hand at Ben-Gurion International Airport to receive the shipment.

Calling the event “a great day for the State of Israel,” Netanyahu said that with the help of Pfizer CEO Albert Bourla, inoculation of the country’s over-16 population would be completed by March.

As of Sunday, more than 2 million Israelis had received the first dose of the vaccine, and more than 290,000 had been given their second shot.

Israel entered its third national COVID-19 lockdown on Dec. 27, but tightened restrictions on Jan. 8 as morbidity continued to rise, with the MoH confirming the presence in the country of both the U.K. and South African variants of the coronavirus.

According to multiple local media reports, Israel’s Coronavirus Cabinet is scheduled to convene on Tuesday—two days before the current lockdown is set to expire—to decide whether to extend it by an additional week due to rising morbidity rates and a death toll that, by Monday morning, had exceeded 4,000.

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