Israel to sign for 10 million doses of AstraZeneca’s coronavirus vaccine

This is the largest amount of vaccines from any one company to be sold to Israel.

A test tube labelled vaccine is seen in front of AstraZeneca logo in this illustration taken, September 9, 2020. (photo credit: REUTERS/DADO RUVIC)
A test tube labelled vaccine is seen in front of AstraZeneca logo in this illustration taken, September 9, 2020.
(photo credit: REUTERS/DADO RUVIC)
Israel announced it has reached an agreement with the British multinational pharmaceutical company AstraZeneca to receive enough doses of its vaccine candidate to inoculate and protect five million Israelis, the Prime Minister’s Office and Health Ministry said Friday.
At the same time, the country is expected to complete the Phase I clinical trial of Brilife this week.
Prof. Yossi Karko, director of the Center for Clinical Research at Hadassah-University Medical Center, confirmed that 46 volunteers have been inoculated with the vaccine candidate developed by the Israel Institute for Biological Research (IIBR) so far. An additional 34 people are expected to be injected this week at Hadassah and Sheba Medical Center, thus completing a Phase I human trial.
A spokesperson for Sheba Medical Center told The Jerusalem Post that the volunteers, all healthy individuals between the ages of 18 and 55, are doing well with no major side effects.
A Phase II clinical trial is expected to launch two or three weeks after completion of the Phase I trial, Karko said. Recruitment for Phase II, which will include individuals up to age 85 as well as those with pre-existing medical conditions, is ongoing.
Phase I was meant to determine preliminary safety and effectiveness of the vaccine candidate. Phase II, which is set to include 960 patients, is expected to take place at medical centers across the country. The goal here is to complete safety tests and pinpoint the right doses, as well as to continue gauging effectiveness.
Then, a Phase III trial of 30,000 volunteers will begin next April or May.
Karko said that the IIBR expects an interim analysis of the Phase III data to be completed by summer, which would enable the institute to apply for emergency authorization and begin inoculating the country’s highest-risk patients.
Meanwhile, AstraZeneca, which is developing its COVID-19 vaccine in cooperation with the University of Oxford, reported on Thursday that according to data from mid-stage trials, its vaccine candidate produces a robust immune response in older adults.
Known as AZD1222, the vaccine uses a replication-deficient chimpanzee viral vector based on a weakened version of a common cold (adenovirus) virus that causes infections in chimpanzees and contains the genetic material of SARS-CoV-2 spike protein, the company’s website describes. After vaccination, the surface spike protein is produced, priming the immune system to attack COVID-19 if it later infects the body.
SARS-CoV-2 is the scientific name for the novel coronavirus that causes COVID-19.
This is “another achievement for the citizens of Israel,” said Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu on Friday. “My policy is that anyone who wants to get vaccinated will have the opportunity to be vaccinated. We will continue to work to ensure that we have as many vaccines as possible, from as many sources as possible.”
According to a joint statement by the Prime Minister’s Office and the Health Ministry, Israel will receive the vaccine, if successful, as part of the company’s not-for-profit program. For the duration of the coronavirus pandemic, AstraZeneca is using all vaccine sales proceeds to cover the costs of production and distribution exclusively.
Once signed, this agreement will mark the largest amount of vaccines from any one company to be sold to Israel. Earlier this month, Israel signed an agreement with Pfizer to receive eight million doses of its vaccine candidate, which recently completed its Phase III human trials.
Israel also has contracts with Moderna Inc. for an undisclosed number of doses, and with Arcturus for four million doses.
The initial supply of AZD1222 is expected to arrive in Israel in the first half of 2021, subject to European, American and Israeli approval.
“This is a historic agreement led by the company’s local representation,” said the president of AstraZeneca Israel, Ohad Goldberg. He added that it will “enable access to the vaccine for millions of Israeli citizens as part of an international policy for equal and comprehensive vaccine accessibility worldwide.”
The joint statement added that Israel continues to be in dialogue with our companies that are producing vaccines.
“A months-long strategic effort is paying off,” said Health Minister Yuli Edelstein. But he cautioned that even as vaccines arrive in the country, it will be a long time before herd immunity is achieved. “We must adhere to the guidelines: masks, social distancing and good hygiene.”