New COVID strain recognized in Israel; Pfizer antibody buy bid delayed
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- Source: Reuters
- Date: 31 Mar,2021
A new coronavirus strain has been identified in Israel, the Health Ministry said on Tuesday, and the Pfizer/BioNTech vaccine, used mostly in a swift nationwide inoculation drive, appeared to work against it.
Separately, a bid from the Israeli authorities to secure 36 million more Pfizer/BioNTech doses to be used as booster shots or for children as soon as they are qualified hit a snag this week on political infighting.
The cabinet was set for Monday to approve the purchase, at around 3.5 billion shekels ($1.05 billion), but it was called off at a squabble between Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu and his defence minister, Benny Gantz, who heads a rival party, over judicial appointments.
The health ministry, which has spent 2.6 billion shekels on vaccines, without revealing the exact amount of Pfizer and Moderna doses purchased, said it had adequate supplies”for the current round of vaccinations”
However, it also said it was important to acquire more doses to fend off variations and inoculate children when that becomes possible.
The ministry said separately it discovered no evidence that the new variant caused widespread illness or severe morbidity, and said it seemed to be scarce and might be disappearing entirely.
More than half of Israel’s population of nine million have received both doses of the Pfizer/BioNTech vaccine. Infection rates have been dropping steadily, and Israel’s economy has largely reopened.
About a third of Israelis are under the age of 16, rendering them ineligible until the Pfizer/BioNTech vaccine is deemed safe for kids.
Israel is in the grips of another political stalemate after an election a week, its fourth in two decades, ended with no clear winner. Talks on building a governing coalition could go on for months.
A spokeswoman for Pfizer declined to comment on the possible vaccine sale.
Netanyahu said this month that Israel is looking to buy 36 million more doses of COVID-19 vaccines.