Likud warned on Sunday night that Israel risked losing contracts for millions more vaccines after a government meeting that was supposed to take place on Monday was canceled.
“For jobs and appointments, [Alternate Prime Minister Benny] Gantz is preventing the signing of contracts for millions of vaccines that will be required to vaccinate the citizens of Israel in the next round,” Likud said in a statement.
“If the government does not immediately approve the contracts obtained by Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu, the vaccine companies may cancel them and transfer them to other countries.”
The party said that “Gantz is acting irresponsibly, endangering the safety and health of all Israeli citizens.”
Likud was responding to a statement by Blue and White that the meeting was canceled because of Netanyahu’s refusal to approve the permanent appointment of a justice minister.
Gantz’s term as acting justice minister is set to end April 5, three months after he took the post in place of Avi Nissenkorn, who had resigned.
The government was expected to discuss the purchase of an additional NIS 3.5 billion worth of vaccines at the cabinet meeting, The Jerusalem Post confirmed. It was also expected to discuss approving an additional NIS 3.5 billion budget increase for the health system.
So far, Israel has spent NIS 2.6 billion on coronavirus vaccines, it was revealed earlier this month at a meeting of the Knesset Finance Committee headed by MK Moshe Gafni (United Torah Judaism). Israel has purchased some 15 million doses of the Pfizer vaccine and a small number of Moderna vaccines, which means it paid between NIS 100 and 175 per dose, much more per dose than other countries.
If vaccines were being purchased at a similar price point, then NIS 3.5 billion would translate into 20-30 million more doses.
The Health Ministry told the Post it could not expand on the details of the discussion or the purchase of the vaccines.
However, a Facebook post by Health Minister Yuli Edelstein Sunday night revealed that canceling the meeting could result in the “loss of the ability to purchase many more vaccines to be ready for the continuation of the fight against the coronavirus in the coming months.”
It is understood that people are likely going to need to be vaccinated at least annually or potentially require a booster shot. However, health officials are still unsure about how long the vaccines will last – and, of course, if there will be a variant that requires a booster.
So far, more than 5.2 million Israelis have received at least one shot of the Pfizer coronavirus vaccine. Israel has purchase agreements already lined up with Moderna and AstraZeneca for additional doses, which have yet to be delivered.
Edelstein wrote that the additional funds would be used to buy reagents and other necessary equipment for Israel’s labs, as well as to pay for the operation of the Home Front Command’s Alon headquarters that carries out the bulk of the country’s epidemiological tracking. It was also meant to add to the budget of the Magen Israel program run by coronavirus commissioner Prof. Nachman Ash.
Finally, he said funds were expected to be designated for psychological treatment in the aftermath of the virus, as well as to help offset the cost of treatment of coronavirus patients by the hospitals and health funds.