Hadassah considers Argentina for Israeli COVID-19 Phase III vaccine trial

A delegation, led by Prof. Yoram Weiss, has arrived in the South American country. The Health Ministry has warned of high infection in Argentina.

Hadassah-University Medical Center doctors fly to Argentina on May 7, 2021 (photo credit: COURTESY HADASSAH)
Hadassah-University Medical Center doctors fly to Argentina on May 7, 2021
(photo credit: COURTESY HADASSAH)
A team of senior medical professionals from Hadassah-University Medical Center arrived in coronavirus-stricken Argentina over the weekend to discuss the possibility of carrying out a Phase III clinical study of Israel’s COVID-19 vaccine.
They will also examine the possibility of manufacturing the vaccine, if it is successful, in the South American country.
Israel's vaccine candidate, BriLife, is currently in the middle of its Phase II trial. Because the majority of Israelis are vaccinated, the country must find a place abroad to carry out a larger, Phase III trial of around 30,000 people.
The other countries under consideration for the trial are Spain, the UK, the United Arab Emirates, India, Mexico, Brazil and even the United States, said Prof. Dror Mevorach, who will join the mission on Sunday.
Mevorach told The Jerusalem Post that Buenos Aires asked to be considered for the trial and is the newest candidate. Negotiations with the other countries are more advanced, he said, adding that Argentina’s distance from Israel may pose logistical challenges. The journey from Israel to Argentina can take about 24 hours.
In March, Prof. Yossi Caraco, director of Hadassah’s clinical research unit, who is also on the mission, said the hospital had signed a memorandum of understanding with Brazil to carry out the Phase III trial but Mevorach said that little progress has been made since then.
The hope is to finish the much-delayed Phase II trial in the coming weeks or months and to progress to the next stage.
The delegation, led by Prof. Yoram Weiss, director of Hadassah Ein Kerem hospital, will meet with senior government officials and provide medical knowledge and support to Argentina.
“We are coming to share our knowledge and see what we can bring from our experience – and maybe we will learn stuff that they know,” Weiss told the Post.
The weeklong mission began the same day that the Health Ministry announced its plans to ask the government to add Argentina to the list of “dangerous countries” from which returnees are required to enter quarantine, whether they are vaccinated or not.
If Argentina is added, it will join a list of seven other countries – Ukraine, Ethiopia, Brazil, India, South Africa, Mexico and Turkey – to which Israelis are not allowed to travel without special permission.
The Hadassah mission to Argentina was requested and is being funded by the Argentinian government and was arranged through Hadassah International. Prof. Sigal Sviri, director of the medical intensive-care department, who also headed Hadassah’s COVID-19 intensive-care unit, is also among the delegation.
The team and other medical personnel are expected to meet with President Alberto Fernández, Foreign Minister Felipe Sola and Health Minister Carla Vizzotti.
The party will help the country initiate the use of a “passive vaccine” or antibody treatment, developed by Hadassah with the Israeli biopharmaceutical firm, Kamada, which uses plasma harvested by Hadassah from recovered corona patients – those who had the disease and now test negative for the virus. Hadassah used the treatment at the height of the crisis in Israel and reported rapid clinical benefits.
It will also share its experiences fighting COVID-19 in Israel, Mevorach said.
“I think we will study the specific situation in Argentina and try to see if there is anything that can be shared that we learned during the pandemic,” he told the Post.
Mevorach noted that he was “worried” about the high level of infection in the country, despite being vaccinated. The Brazilian variant, which some believe could be at least partially vaccine resistant, is dominant in Argentina.
On Friday, the Health Ministry also warned citizens against traveling to Seychelles, Georgia, Moldova, Maldives, Philippines, France, Costa Rica, Cyprus, Russia and Thailand – all countries with high levels of infection – although no formal restrictions have been imposed.