Coronavirus: Where are Israel’s Moderna vaccines?

Originally, the Moderna vaccine was intended to be used to inoculate Israel’s homebound community, but now the effort proves to be too complicated.

Vials with a sticker reading, "COVID-19 / Coronavirus vaccine / Injection only" and a medical syringe are seen in front of a displayed Moderna logo in this illustration taken October 31, 2020.  (photo credit: REUTERS/DADO RUVIC/ILLUSTRATION/FILE PHOTO)
Vials with a sticker reading, "COVID-19 / Coronavirus vaccine / Injection only" and a medical syringe are seen in front of a displayed Moderna logo in this illustration taken October 31, 2020.
(photo credit: REUTERS/DADO RUVIC/ILLUSTRATION/FILE PHOTO)
Israel received 100,000 Moderna vaccines last month, enough to inoculate 50,000 people. Most of them are still being stored at the logistics unit of Teva Pharmaceutical Industries near Ben-Gurion Airport, according to a Health Ministry spokesperson.
With such a relatively small number of Moderna vaccines here, the reason for not launching is purely logistical, the spokesperson told The Jerusalem Post.
For starters, while both the Pfizer and the Moderna vaccines require two doses, Pfizer’s second shot is given 21 days after the first and Moderna’s 28 – a difference that would add a layer of complication to the distribution campaign being run by the health funds.
Moreover, the vaccines need to be stored at different temperatures. Pfizer’s vaccines must be kept at around minus-70 degrees Celsius, while Moderna’s can be stored at minus 20 degrees Celsius – the temperature of a home freezer.
Finally, the vaccines are dosed differently, and there are a different number of doses in each vial.
Each Pfizer dose is 0.3 milliliter and contains 30 micrograms of COVID-19 mRNA vaccine, while Moderna’s is a 0.5-ml. dose of 100 micrograms of the vaccine. Each vial of Pfizer’s contains six doses, while each vial of Moderna’s contains 10.
Originally, Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu had said the Moderna vaccine would be used to inoculate Israel’s homebound community. However, the Health Ministry said this also proved to be too complicated.
For now, Magen David Adom and other emergency response teams are bringing these homebound individuals to health funds’ vaccination centers via ambulances and then returning them home.
Earlier this month, Israel transferred 2,000 doses of Moderna’s vaccine to the Palestinian Authority to be used to vaccinate its medical teams. A total of 5,000 vaccines reportedly will be transferred in three more shipments.
The Health Ministry has not made a final determination about how the rest of the vaccines it ordered from the US company will be administered, the spokesperson told the Post.
Israel ordered six million Moderna vaccines, enough to vaccinate three million people.
It also has another 10 million doses of the AstraZeneca vaccine on order.
The next large-scale Moderna delivery is expected to arrive in Israel sometime in March.
Over the weekend, Israel came under pressure regarding its choice to hold onto the vaccines rather than transfer them to the PA, which has received 10,000 doses of Russia’s Sputnik V vaccine.
An article published by Bloomberg accused Israel of “keeping its Moderna Inc. supply on hold” while “not inoculating the millions of Palestinians under its control.”
IDF Chief of Staff Lt.-Gen. Aviv Kochavi and Defense Minister Benny Gantz are expected to approve a request submitted by the PA in the coming days for the transfer of tens of thousands of vaccine doses to the Gaza Strip, the Hebrew website Walla reported Sunday, without specifying which brand of vaccines.
The first shipment of 2,000 doses of the Russian vaccine are expected to arrive in the Gaza Strip on Monday, according to a senior official with the Hamas-controlled Ministry of Health.
Pfizer committed to providing Israel with as many vaccinations as its citizens require in exchange for giving the company extensive data on the country’s vaccine rollout and its impact on infection rates.
So far, 3.8 million Israelis have received at least the first dose of the Pfizer vaccine, and nearly 2.5 million have received both doses.
Khaled Abu-Toameh contributed to this report.