COVID: Israel studying Pfizer drug, vote on kids’ vaccine set for Wednesday

On Friday, Pfizer announced that its antiviral pill Paxlovid cut hospitalization by 89%.

 Prime Minister Naftali Bennett at the cabinet meeting, November 7, 2021.  (photo credit: MARC ISRAEL SELLEM/THE JERUSALEM POST)
Prime Minister Naftali Bennett at the cabinet meeting, November 7, 2021.
(photo credit: MARC ISRAEL SELLEM/THE JERUSALEM POST)

Israel is looking into data on the new corona drug developed by Pfizer and the question of securing its supply, Prime Minister Naftali Bennett said at the opening of the cabinet meeting on Sunday. At the same time, the Health Ministry announced that a decision on approving the vaccine for children age 5-11 is expected on Wednesday.

“There may be good news regarding a drug to treat corona,” Bennett said. “Over the weekend I asked our system to study the issue of the new drug in-depth and to examine procurement for the State of Israel. If the drug is approved for use, it will be another significant tool in fighting the pandemic, along with vaccines for everyone and test accessibility, for everyone, all the time.”

Pfizer – which also manufactures the vaccine used in Israel – announced on Friday that its antiviral pill Paxlovid cut by 89% the chance of hospitalization or death for adults at risk of severe disease.

The company said that it plans to submit the data to the US Food and Drug Administration before November 25.

Pfizer CEO Albert Bourla said the company is in talks with 90 countries to provide the pill.

 Empty Pfizer-BioNTech coronavirus disease (COVID-19) vaccine vials for children aged 5-11 are seen in Collegeville, Pennsylvania, US, November 6, 2021. (credit: REUTERS/HANNAH BEIER) Empty Pfizer-BioNTech coronavirus disease (COVID-19) vaccine vials for children aged 5-11 are seen in Collegeville, Pennsylvania, US, November 6, 2021. (credit: REUTERS/HANNAH BEIER)

While earlier reports on Israeli media said that Israel was not among the countries, Health Ministry Director-General Prof. Nachman Ash said on Sunday morning that while Jerusalem had not yet reached an agreement with the company, he hoped it would do so in the next few days.

“I think that the good relations with Pfizer will help us get the drug fast,” he noted during an interview on 103FM radio.

Commenting on the results of the clinical trial, Ash said, “It sounds promising, but I need to also learn about the drug’s success data and costs.”

The Health Ministry announced on Sunday that the Pandemic Response Team and the Advisory Committee on Vaccine will meet again on Wednesday to discuss and vote on approving the vaccination of 5-11-year-olds. The ministry is still considering whether to hold the vote behind closed doors or to make it accessible to the public. The session on Thursday was live-streamed.

Ash said that in light of the high level of verbal violence on the topic of vaccines, the ministry might not want to expose the members of the panel in another public debate, as many of them work for independent organizations and are not Health Ministry’s officials. Several experts said they would feel more at liberty to express themselves freely if the session was not open, said Ash.

In the meantime, morbidity in Israel continued to decline. There were 194 new cases recorded on Saturday, and 178 serious patients as of Sunday. Only two COVID deaths were registered since Thursday.