Israel in negotiations with Novavax to purchase COVID-19 vaccine

Two dozen coronavirus red zones named as criteria changes

A woman holds a small bottle labeled with a "Coronavirus COVID-19 Vaccine" sticker and a medical syringe in front of displayed Novavax logo in this illustration taken, October 30, 2020. (photo credit: REUTERS/DADO RUVIC)
A woman holds a small bottle labeled with a "Coronavirus COVID-19 Vaccine" sticker and a medical syringe in front of displayed Novavax logo in this illustration taken, October 30, 2020.
(photo credit: REUTERS/DADO RUVIC)
Israel is in negotiations with the Maryland-based biotech company Novavax to receive its vaccine candidate, Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu said Wednesday.
All of the new vaccines are based on the viral spike protein. However, whereas Moderna, Pfizer and AstraZeneca vaccine candidates are based on the gene of the spike protein, Novovax vaccine is a subunit vaccine that is based on the spike protein itself.
This is the same type of vaccine as the hepatitis B surface antigen vaccine that is given to babies at birth.
News of the potentially new contract comes on the same day that the number of red and orange zones across Israel increased, as the Health Ministry shifted the criteria for labeling cities within the traffic light program on Wednesday.
There are now 24 red cities and 32 orange cities. At press time Tuesday, there were 16 red cities and 27 orange cities.
There are 52 yellow zones and 1,153 green zones.
According to a decision by the coronavirus cabinet, fifth through 12th grades will open only in green and yellow zones.
Preschoolers and classrooms for students in grades one through four are open in all cities, regardless of their level of infection.
During an interview with Ynet on Tuesday, Health Ministry director-general Chezy Levy said that the ministry is considering closing or reducing activities in the lower grades in orange and red cities.
“We are in dialogue with the heads of the authorities in these cities who are aware of this and are doing their best to prevent it and reduce morbidity in the authorities they are in charge of,” Levy told Ynet.
The announcement that the change in criteria was going into effect – a date that was predetermined by the coronavirus cabinet and the ministry – came on a day that there were more than 1,000 new cases of the virus for the sixth day out of the last seven.
On Wednesday, the ministry reported 1,187 new diagnoses the day before – 1.9% of those screened, plus another 948 between midnight and press time on Wednesday. More than 500 people are being treated in the hospital, including 284 serious patients.
The reproduction rate – the number of people a sick person infects – stands at between 1.1 and 1.2, which health officials say is high and will lead to a continual spike in cases. The infection rate was supposed to stand at no more than 0.8 to continue opening the economy and education system.
The criteria for determining a location’s level of infection did not change, only the thresholds. A zone’s color is decided based on a number of factors, including the number and rate of increase of new weekly patients per 10,000 in each authority, the overall rate of infection and how many people test positive out of those who are screened for the virus.
Green cities are those with the lowest infection and red are those with the highest. Yellow is closer to green. Orange is closer to red.
Levy told Ynet that: “It doesn’t really matter if we call it the beginning of the third wave. The main thing is that we are on a slippery slope.”
He said the situation could “lead us into a state of emergency. What is an emergency? Congestion in the hospitals and an increase in deaths. We may not be there yet, but we are definitely heading in that direction.”
Several ideas have been circulated in recent days about how to reduce infection, including a night curfew during the Festival of Lights (Hanukkah). Levy said that a night curfew alone “will do nothing,” since there are already not supposed to be any events or activities.
Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu said Wednesday that the cabinet would be reviewing ideas to help stop the spread of infection soon. The Health Ministry is expected to present options by the end of the week.