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Israel, laboratory of vaccine efficacy

LETTER FROM JERUSALEM

In the past month, 2.3 million Israelis have received a first dose of the Covid-19 vaccine and more than 500,000 of them a second. Throughout this record-breaking campaign, the country is turning into a vaccine efficacy laboratory, working well with the Pfizer laboratory, which provided it with most of these doses.

On Sunday January 17, the Hebrew state made public a contract signed with the American giant, detailing the data it shares with it, “To determine whether mass immunity is achieved after reaching a certain percentage of immunization coverage in Israel. “

Article reserved for our subscribers Read also Israel launches the Covid-19 vaccination

This transparency effort follows the statements of the Prime Minister, Benjamin Netanyahu, who proclaimed, at the beginning of January, that“Israel will be[it] a model state on a global scale (…) Israel will share[it] with Pfizer and the whole world the statistical data that will help develop strategies to defeat the coronavirus. “

Part of this agreement, which may have helped secure supplies to Israel, remains a secret. As early as November 2020, Mr. Netanyahu had made it a condition of the country’s secure access to the vaccine.

The document released by the health ministry, in part truncated, does not reveal the date it was signed, nor the amount paid. He said Pfizer cannot obtain personal medical information on vaccinees, but only aggregate weekly data, including small subgroups divided by age, medical history or location of vaccination. Finally, the contract does not exclude the sharing of information that the State does not itself make public.

Netanyahu’s glass syringe

This secret has attracted criticism: “The government concluded a contract with a laboratory without informing the Israeli public and without mobilizing the ethical framework supposed to regulate it”, deplores Tehilla Shwartz Altshuler, specialist in digital freedoms at the Israel Institute for Democracy (IDI). On Monday, the director of the Helsinki Committee for Human Rights, linked to the Ministry of Health and involved in the authorization of medical research, announced that he would review this “Deal”, while taking care not to fuel public mistrust of the vaccination campaign.

A small country of 9.3 million inhabitants, with a system of universal public health coverage and good infrastructure, Israel has in the past served as a field of vaccine evaluation, particularly in collaboration with the Centers for Disease Control. (CDC) Americans, notes Nadav Davidovitch, a member of the committee that advises the government during the pandemic.

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