BioNTech/Pfizer Say Vaccine Can Stand Warmer Temperatures

A health worker prepares a dose of the Pfizer-BioNTech vaccine against COVID-19 at Colombia University Clinic in Bogota, on February 18, 2021.
Raul ARBOLEDA / AFP

Germany’s BioNTech and its US partner Pfizer on Friday said tests have shown that their coronavirus vaccine can stand warmer temperatures than initially thought, potentially simplifying the jab’s complex cold-chain logistics.

The companies said they have asked the US Food and Drug Administration to allow for the vaccine to be stored for up to two weeks at minus 25 to minus 15 degrees Celsius (minus 13 to five degrees Fahrenheit), temperatures commonly found in pharmaceutical freezers and refrigerators.

Under the existing guidelines, the BioNTech/Pfizer jab needs to be stored at a frigid minus 80 to minus 60 C until five days before use, a delicate process that requires special ultra-cold containers for shipping and dry ice for storage.

READ ALSO: 31 Dead In DR Congo Plague Outbreak

“If approved, this new storage option would offer pharmacies and vaccination centres greater flexibility in how they manage their vaccine supply,” said Pfizer CEO Albert Bourla in a statement.

The BioNTech/Pfizer jab, based on novel mRNA technology, was the first vaccine against Covid-19 to be approved in the West late last year.

It was soon followed by US firm Moderna’s vaccine, which uses similar technology but can remain stable at minus 20 C for six months and at normal fridge temperature for up to 30 days.

Another approved shot, developed by AstraZeneca/Oxford, uses more traditional vaccine methods and can be stored and shipped at standard fridge temperatures.

BioNTech CEO Ugur Sahin said BioNTech and Pfizer were continuing to work on “new formulations that could make our vaccine even easier to transport and use”.

The firms have also started testing their Covid-19 vaccine on healthy pregnant women.

The trial involves some 4,000 pregnant women in the United States, Canada, Argentina, Brazil, Chile, Mozambique, South Africa, Britain and Spain.

Those in the US have already received their first dose, BioNTech and Pfizer said earlier this week.

Separately, a study focused on more than 9,000 medical staff at Sheba hospital near Tel Aviv showed that the first dose of the Pfizer vaccination is 85 percent effective against coronavirus infection between two and four weeks after inoculation.

AFP

BioNTech Starts Vaccine Production At New German Site

In this file photo taken on November 23, 2020 is pictured a bottle reading “Vaccine Covid-19” next to US pharmaceutical company Pfizer and German biotechnology company BioNTech logos on November 23, 2020. JOEL SAGET / AFP

 

German Covid-19 vaccine maker BioNTech said Wednesday it has started production at its new facility in Marburg, expected to significantly boost the EU’s vaccine supply.

“We have started the first step of vaccine production in our production facility in Marburg,” the company said in a statement.

The factory, whose launch was fast-tracked by German authorities, will produce mRNA, the active ingredient in BioNTech’s vaccine developed with US pharmaceutical giant Pfizer.

It will then be purified and concentrated before being transported to a “production partner” to be finished.

The European Medicines Agency (EMA) will carry out quality checks in February or March.

“The first vaccines produced at the Marburg site are expected to be delivered at the beginning of April,” BioNTech said.

READ ALSO: Prince Charles Receives First Dose Of COVID-19 Vaccine

The main European factory for producing the vaccine is Pfizer’s plant in Puurs, Belgium.

Once fully operational, the new Marburg site in Hesse state will be one of the largest mRNA production facilities in Europe, with an annual production capacity of up to 750 million vaccine doses.

BioNTech plans to produce up to 250 million doses there in the first half of 2021.

“We continue to work with Pfizer on a series of measures to meet global demand,” said the company, confirming its goal of delivering two billion doses in 2021.

BioNTech bought the Marburg plant from Swiss pharma giant Novartis last year to ramp up vaccine production, and retained the 300 employees already working there.

BioNTech had announced in mid-January that it would have to delay shipments of the jabs to the EU due to necessary modifications at the Puurs factory, sparking ire across the bloc.

But the company said in early February it would meet its contractual commitments for the first quarter and pledged to send up to 75 million extra doses to the bloc in the spring.

The EU has ordered a total of 600 million doses of BioNTech and Pfizer’s so-called Comirnaty vaccine.

Why Nigeria Was Not Included In First Shipment Of Pfizer Vaccine – WHO

This picture taken on April 24, 2020 shows a sign of the World Health Organization (WHO) in Geneva next to their headquarters, amid the COVID-19 outbreak, caused by the novel coronavirus. Fabrice COFFRINI / AFP
This picture taken on April 24, 2020 shows a sign of the World Health Organization (WHO) in Geneva next to their headquarters, amid the COVID-19 outbreak, caused by the novel coronavirus.
Fabrice COFFRINI / AFP

 

The World Health Organisation (WHO) has explained why Nigeria was not included among the countries to receive the Pfizer vaccine in Africa.

Regional Director of the WHO, Matshidiso Moeti, had said only four out of 13 interested African countries were shortlisted to receive the Pfizer vaccines through COVAX, a mechanism backed by WHO for distributing vaccines to the developing world.

Moeti who spoke at a press briefing on COVID-19 vaccine rollout in Africa on Thursday, said the countries are Cabo Verde, Rwanda, South Africa & Tunisia.

READ ALSO: African Leaders To Tackle COVID-19, Conflict At Virtual Summit

She noted that they were picked following evaluations by a multi-agency committee based on current mortality rates, new cases and trends, and the capacity to handle the ultra-cold chain needs of the vaccine.

But speaking during a briefing on Saturday in Abuja, WHO Country Representative, Dr Wondimagegnehu Alemu, said the global health body did not disqualify Nigeria for any reason.

He explained that COVAX decided to replace the initial 100,000 doses of Pfizer with 16 million doses of the Astrazeneca vaccine.

He stated that issues around population, fatalities from COVID-19 were some of the considerations the Selection Committee used in choosing which country received which vaccine.

Alemu revealed that Nigeria will receive the Pfizer vaccine as supplies increases, adding that the Astrazeneca vaccine, which is more in supply, will meet more of the needs in Nigeria.

Storage Capacities

In January, the Director-General of the Nigerian Institute of Medical Research (NIMR), Babatunde Salako, in an interview with Punch Newspaper, said the country does not have enough freezers to store the Pfizer vaccine.

The Pfizer vaccines must be stored at the ultra-cold temperature of -70°C.

But days after Salako’s interview, the Executive Director of the National Primary Health Development Agency, Dr Faisal Shuaib gave journalists a tour of the National Strategic Cold Store in Abuja.

During the tour, he said Nigeria has the capacity to store up to 400,000 doses of the Pfizer vaccine.

After Moeti’s Thursday’s disclosure that Nigeria was not among the countries to receive the Pfizer vaccine, news media reported that Nigeria had been disqualified from the process due to, among other reasons, lack of the required storage capacity.

“WHO is part of Covax facility and can never disqualify a Member State from accessing an approved vaccine for their population,” a WHO representative Kazadi Mulombo, tweeted on Saturday. “I call upon members of the press in Nigeria and globally to contribute to fighting misinformation.”

 

 

WHO, Pfizer Reach COVAX Deal For 40m COVID-19 Vaccine Doses

LAS VEGAS, NEVADA – JANUARY 12: A vial of the Pfizer-BioNTech COVID-19 vaccine is displayed at UNLV on January 12, 2021 in Las Vegas, Nevada.
Ethan Miller / GETTY IMAGES NORTH AMERICA / Getty Images via AFP

 

The WHO and pharmaceuticals giant Pfizer on Friday announced a deal for up to 40 million initial doses of the Pfizer-BioNTech Covid-19 vaccine for poorer countries, through Covax global pool.

“I’m glad to announce that Covax has signed an agreement with Pfizer-BioNTech for up to 40 million doses of its Covid-19 vaccine,” World Health Organization director-general Tedros Adhanom Ghebreyesus told a press conference in Geneva.

More to follow….

Italy Threatens Legal Action Over Pfizer Vaccine Delays

An illustration picture shows vials with Covid-19 Vaccine stickers attached, with the logo of US pharmaceutical company Pfizer, on November 17, 2020. JUSTIN TALLIS / AFP
An illustration picture shows vials with Covid-19 Vaccine stickers attached, with the logo of US pharmaceutical company Pfizer, on November 17, 2020. JUSTIN TALLIS / AFP

 

Italy has threatened to take legal action against pharma giant Pfizer over delays in deliveries of the coronavirus vaccine.

“Protecting the health of Italian citizens is not negotiable,” Domenico Arcuri, the special commissioner for the pandemic, said in a statement late Tuesday.

A meeting with ministers and regional leaders considered how to protect Italians “in all civil and criminal venues where possible”, he said.

“It was unanimously decided that these actions will be taken starting in the next few days.”

Pfizer/BioNTech’s vaccine, which was developed at record-breaking speed, was approved for use in the European Union in late December and has been quickly rolled out.

But Pfizer said last Friday it would delay shipments of vaccinations over the next three to four weeks due to works at its key processing plan in Belgium.

READ ALSO: Biden Plans Immediate Orders On Immigration, COVID-19, Environment

The following day, in a joint statement with German vaccine partner BioNTech, the US drugmaker said it had a plan to limit delays of deliveries to one week.

The delays have sparked concern across Europe, which has suffered badly from the pandemic — with Italy among the worst.

Arcuri said that 29 percent of promised doses were not delivered this week.

“The vaccination campaign cannot be slowed down, even less so for the administration of the second doses for the many Italians who have already been given the first.”

Italy has so far recorded more than 83,000 deaths from coronavirus and vaccinated more than 1.2 million people.

Phase Three Trials Begin For Novavax Vaccine In US, Mexico

KIRKLAND, WA – DECEMBER 28: Pharmacists prepare doses of the COVID-19 vaccine at the Life Care Center of Kirkland on December 28, 2020 in Kirkland, Washington. The Life Care Center of Kirkland, a nursing home, was an early epicenter for coronavirus outbreaks in the U.S. Karen Ducey/Getty Images/AFP

 

Clinical trials to determine the safety and efficacy of a Covid-19 vaccine candidate from American biotech company Novavax have begun in the United States and Mexico, the US National Institutes of Health (NIH) announced Monday.

A similar Phase 3 trial for the same vaccine, called NVX-CoV2373, is also under way in the United Kingdom, where about 15,000 volunteers have been recruited.

In the US and Mexico, the new trials will include around 30,000 volunteers over the age of 18.

Two-thirds of the participants will receive the vaccine and one-third a placebo. None of them will know, for the duration of the trial, what was in the injection they received.

“The launch of this study — the fifth investigational COVID-19 vaccine candidate to be tested in a Phase 3 trial in the United States — demonstrates our resolve to end the pandemic through development of multiple safe and effective vaccines,” said leading US immunologist Anthony Fauci, director of the National Institute of Allergy and Infectious Diseases (NIAID), part of the NIH.

The goal is that at least 25 percent of the participants in the US and Mexico trials should be aged 65 and over, the statement said.

Emphasis will also be placed on recruiting people who are more exposed to Covid-19 — African-Americans and Hispanics in particular — or who present with underlying health conditions that put them at higher risk, such as obesity or diabetes.

READ ALSO: US Begins COVID-19 Vaccinations For Troops In South Korea

The vaccine is taken in two doses three weeks apart. It can be stored between two and eight degrees Celsius (35 and 46 degrees Fahrenheit) — much warmer temperatures than already approved vaccines from Pfizer/BioNTech and Moderna, meaning it could be more easily distributed.

The Pfizer and Moderna vaccines are based on a new technology, messenger RNA, while the Novavax vaccine is a recombinant protein vaccine.

The coronavirus has spikes (viral proteins) on its surface that come into contact with cells it infects. These proteins can be reproduced and presented to the immune system so that it can later recognize them and react if it is actually infected.

Two other vaccines that have conducted Phase 3 trials, those from Johnson & Johnson and AstraZeneca/Oxford, are expected soon to seek emergency authorization for distribution in the US, the country most affected by the pandemic in absolute numbers worldwide.

WHO In Talks With Pfizer, Moderna On COVID-19 Vaccine Access

This combination of file pictures created on August 05, 2020 shows a sign for Pfizer pharmaceutical company in Cambridge, Massachusetts, on March 18, 2017, and the Moderna headquarters in Cambridge, Massachusetts on May 18, 2020.  DOMINICK REUTER, Joseph Prezioso / AFP

 

The World Health Organization said Tuesday it is in discussions with Pfizer and Moderna about possibly including their high-tech coronavirus vaccines among early jabs for poor countries at affordable prices.

The WHO-backed Covax facility, created to ensure equitable access to Covid-19 vaccines around the world as they become available, is aiming to provide some two billion doses by the end of next year.

It has already secured hundreds of millions of doses of vaccine candidates being developed by AstraZeneca, Novavax and Sanofi-GSK.

WHO senior advisor Bruce Aylward said the organisation was looking at a range of other jabs, as well as the current frontrunners.

He said WHO was “in conversations” with Pfizer and Moderna about whether their products could be part of “early roll-out of vaccines”.

READ ALSO: Bomb Kills Deputy Governor In Afghan Capital

But, he stressed, “we also need to make sure that they are at prices that are appropriate for the populations we are trying to serve and the countries we are trying to help.”

US pharmaceutical giant Pfizer has, along with German BioNTech, created the first coronavirus jab to receive regulatory approval in a number of Western countries. Vaccination campaigns have already begun in Britain and the United States.

The Moderna vaccine is expected to quickly receive approvals as well.

– Light, but a long tunnel –
Both vaccines use cutting-edge technology and have been shown in Phase III trials to be highly effective — and they are expected to be expensive.

But Aylward hailed public comments from Pfizer chief Albert Bourla in which he talked about cutting prices for low-income countries.

“He has said we are committed to making sure that our products see global use and we recognise that requires pricing it at the right level to be able to make that work,” Aylward said.

“So there is a strong commitment from Pfizer out there to be able to do that.”

Covax wanted to have a diverse portfolio of vaccines to offer and would evaluate “any product out there with demonstrated efficacy, safety, quality”, he added.

The vaccines developed by China and Russia could also be evaluated for inclusion “if they meet the standards for efficacy and safety”, he said.

A year into the pandemic, which has claimed more than 1.6 million lives worldwide, Aylward hailed the positive vaccine news over the past month.

“There is light at the end of the tunnel,” he said. But while there was “a bright light at the end of it, getting brighter, it is a long tunnel.”

AFP

US Expert Committee Recommends Pfizer COVID-19 Vaccine Approval

An illustration picture shows vials with Covid-19 Vaccine stickers attached, with the logo of US pharmaceutical company Pfizer, on November 17, 2020. JUSTIN TALLIS / AFP
An illustration picture shows vials with Covid-19 Vaccine stickers attached, with the logo of US pharmaceutical company Pfizer, on November 17, 2020.
JUSTIN TALLIS / AFP

 

 

An expert committee convened by the US Food and Drug Administration voted heavily in favor of recommending the Pfizer-BioNTech Covid-19 vaccine for emergency use approval on Thursday.

The final voting tally was 17 in favor, four against and one abstention.

The committee was tasked with answering whether, “based on the totality of scientific evidence available, do the benefits of the Pfizer-BioNTech Covid-19 vaccine outweigh its risk for use in individuals 16 years of age and older?”

READ ALSO: Israel Gets First Delivery Of Pfizer COVID-19 Vaccine

The vote by the independent experts and researchers, including infectious disease specialists, biostatisticians and other scientists, isn’t binding but the FDA is expected to follow the recommendation within the coming days.

Britain, Canada, Bahrain and Saudi Arabia have already approved the vaccine, the first in the world to complete a large-scale, phase 3 clinical trial.

Russian and Chinese vaccines are already being administered on a large scale, but without having completed comparable clinical trials.

The full results of the trial, which included nearly 44,000 people, were published Thursday in the New England Journal of Medicine, another major milestone.

These confirmed the vaccine was 95 percent effective with no serious safety issues, an outcome that was described in an accompanying editorial as a “triumph.”

Pfizer scientist Kathrin Jansen told the panel this was a result of the innovative messenger RNA technology behind the vaccine, an approach that has never before been approved.

Britain on Wednesday reported that two health care workers developed significant allergic reactions to the vaccine as the country rolled out its massive drive Tuesday.

The FDA will therefore include a warning label on the vaccine if it’s approved, the agency’s Marion Gruber said.

AFP

US Records Highest Daily COVID-19 Death Toll As Regulators Meet Over Pfizer Vaccine

Medical staff members Flor Trevino (L) and Susan Paradela attempt to change the bed sheet of a patient in the COVID-19 intensive care unit (ICU) at the United Memorial Medical Center on December 7, 2020 in Houston, Texas.  Go Nakamura/Getty Images/AFP
Medical staff members Flor Trevino (L) and Susan Paradela attempt to change the bed sheet of a patient in the COVID-19 intensive care unit (ICU) at the United Memorial Medical Center on December 7, 2020 in Houston, Texas. Go Nakamura/Getty Images/AFP

 

American regulators were due to meet Thursday to assess the Pfizer coronavirus vaccine for emergency approval, as the country logged one of its worst-ever daily Covid-19 death tolls with more than 3,000 people lost to the pandemic.

Other northern hemisphere countries were also grappling with a winter virus surge, as the number of global infections raced towards 70 million with more than 1.5 million deaths.

It is not confirmed when the US Food and Drug Administration will issue the emergency authorization for the Pfizer-BioNTech vaccine, but Health Secretary Alex Azar indicated that officials have early next week in mind.

“Now we actually get to do something that hopefully will bring this… pandemic to an end,” said Terri White, a nursing education specialist at UW Health in the state of Wisconsin, where staff are being trained to administer the vaccine.

“I know our whole team is really excited about that prospect… to help our lives return to normal.”

Top US government scientists said, however, that people with a known history of severe allergic reactions would be asked not to take the Pfizer vaccine, following a similar warning in Britain.

The United States is the worst-hit nation in the world, with more than 15 million known infections and close to 290,000 deaths.

US Army General Gus Perna, who is overseeing logistics nationwide, said he had given the order Wednesday to begin distributing syringes, needles, alcohol wipes and dilutants required for the Pfizer vaccine, a process expected to be completed by Friday.

The next vaccines to receive approval might be those made by Moderna, Johnson & Johnson, and AstraZeneca, most likely in that order.

The US hopes to vaccinate 20 million people this month, with long term care facility residents and health care workers at the front of the line. The goal is to reach 100 million by the end of February and the whole population by June.

‘I’m really excited’

After Britain gave the first approved vaccine shots in the Western world, Canada also approved the Pfizer-BioNTech vaccine on Wednesday.

The first shipments to 14 sites across Canada are scheduled to arrive Monday with people receiving shots a day or two later, according to Major-General Dany Fortin, the commander put in charge of coordinating distribution.

Healthcare workers and vulnerable populations including the elderly are to be the first to receive it.

A person takes a Covid-19 oral swab test at a pop-up community testing site in the Panorama City neighborhood of Los Angeles, California, December 9, 2020. Patrick T. Fallon / AFP
A person takes a Covid-19 oral swab test at a pop-up community testing site in the Panorama City neighborhood of Los Angeles, California, December 9, 2020.
Patrick T. Fallon / AFP

 

“I’m really excited. I want to get vaccinated as soon as possible, because I have a new baby,” Michelle, a Toronto resident, told AFP.

“She’s under six months old, and so obviously my main concern through the whole pandemic has been to protect her.”

Israel accepted its first shipment of the Pfizer vaccine on Wednesday, targeting a rollout on December 27, with Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu promising to be the first to be injected — although the vaccine has yet to pass regulatory hurdles there.

Both Russia and China have already begun inoculation campaigns with domestically produced vaccines.

‘I hope better days are coming’

As European countries eagerly await vaccines, the EU’s medical regulator was hit by a cyberattack in which documents related to the Pfizer vaccine were accessed, the firm said Wednesday.

The European Medicines Agency has promised to reach a decision on conditional approval for the Pfizer-BioNTech vaccine by December 29, with a ruling on Moderna’s candidate to follow by January 12.

But while wealthier nations have the financial and logistical abilities to roll out the vaccines, there are concerns that the poorer — and more vulnerable — parts of the world will be left behind.

African Union chairman Moussa Faki Mahamat said Wednesday that “those who have the (financial) means must not monopolize the vaccines.”

At an annual Christmas toy and food giveaway in a poor neighborhood of Belo Horizonte, Brazil, where Mrs Santa Claus embraced children from behind a plastic “hug curtain”, people hoped for an end to their suffering.

“I hope better days are coming,” said Valmira Pereira, a house cleaner. “That next year we’ll be able to give real hugs, be able to feel that human warmth that everyone’s been missing.”

Israel To Start COVID-19 Vaccinations On December 27

Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu speaks during a joint press conference with the Slovenian Prime Minister in Jerusalem on December 8, 2020. ohad zwigenberg / POOL / AFP

 

Israel will start Covid-19 vaccinations from December 27, Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu said on Wednesday, as the country received its first batch of Pfizer’s coronavirus vaccine.

Netanyahu, who was on hand as an air freighter carrying the vaccines landed at Ben Gurion airport, near Tel Aviv, vowed to be the first Israeli to get the jab.

The shipment was the first of eight million doses Israel ordered from pharmaceutical giant Pfizer and its partner BioNTech.

“This is a great celebration for Israel,” Netanyahu said as a fork-lift truck started unloading the cargo.

“The first vaccinations will be given on December 27,” he said later, noting the public health service would be capable of administering 60,000 inoculations a day.

“Tomorrow another shipment is arriving, a much larger one,” Netanyahu said.

“I’m asking that every Israeli citizen be vaccinated, and to do so, requested to set an example and be the first person being vaccinated in Israel,” he added, without saying when.

It came ahead of Hanukkah, the Jewish Festival of Lights, which begins on Thursday.

“We’ve brought great light to Israel,” he said.

The Pfizer vaccine has yet to receive the necessary regulatory approvals for use in Israel, but Netanyahu said he would be meeting with the health minister and heads of the public health system on Thursday to prepare “the massive national undertaking” of vaccinations.

The results of third-phase clinical trials showed the vaccine was 90 percent effective in preventing Covid-19 symptoms and did not produce adverse side effects among thousands of volunteers.

Britain started inoculating its citizens with the same vaccine on Tuesday.

Israel has also contracted to buy six million Covid-19 vaccine doses from US biotech firm Moderna which are expected to be delivered in 2021, giving a total of 14 million shots for its populaton of nine million.

Both medications require two doses to be administered for optimal protection.

The Pfizer vaccine needs to be stored at the ultra-low temperature of -70 degrees Celsius (-94 Fahrenheit), posing handling and storage challenges.

‘End to the Plague’

Speaking at the airport, Netanyahu praised “our amazing logistical storage centre, which is a few minutes from here, with refrigeration and the highest medical standards in the world”.

Israel imposed a second nationwide lockdown in September, when the country had one of the world’s highest per capita infection rates.

Restrictions have since been gradually eased in the country but infection rates are again on the rise.

The virus has infected 349,916 Israelis, 2,934 of them fatally, according to Wednesday’s official figures.

While reiterating the need to keep up with “masks, distancing, hygiene and preventing gatherings,” Netanyahu was nonetheless upbeat.

“We’re bringing an end to the plague,” he said in his Wednesday evening address.

On Monday, Netanyahu’s office announced a sweeping night-time curfew but it has so far not received the cabinet approval required for its implementation and no details have been published.

On Wednesday evening, Netanyahu said the government would meeting the next day to finalise the restrictions set to be issued.

“We decided on taking the gatherings expected on the holidays, Hannukah, Christmas and the New Year, and limiting them to save lives,” he said.

Foreign Minister Gabi Ashkenazi meanwhile suggested Israel might provide vaccinations for Palestinians in the occupied West Bank or the Gaza Strip.

“We don’t rule out this opportunity once we will have the amount that we need for our first responders, health community and others, and as far as I know they have already engaged with some of the companies,” he said.

The Palestinian Authority says over 75,500 people have so far been infected with coronavirus in the West Bank and 712 have died.

In the Israeli-blockaded Gaza Strip there have been about 25,500 infections and 155 fatalities.

On Monday, the enclave’s Hamas rulers said Gaza had received 20,000 test kits from the World Health Organization, after warning it could no longer perform testing due to a shortage of equipment.

Facing a surge in cases, Hamas has also announced a lockdown on weekends lasting from December 11 to the end of the month. It also closed schools, universities, kindergartens and mosques.

Israel Gets First Delivery Of Pfizer COVID-19 Vaccine

An illustration picture shows vials with Covid-19 Vaccine stickers attached, with the logo of US pharmaceutical company Pfizer, on November 17, 2020. JUSTIN TALLIS / AFP
An illustration picture shows vials with Covid-19 Vaccine stickers attached, with the logo of US pharmaceutical company Pfizer, on November 17, 2020. JUSTIN TALLIS / AFP

 

 

Israel received its first batch of Pfizer’s coronavirus vaccine Wednesday, with Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu declaring the pandemic’s end was “in sight” and vowing to get the first jab.

“This is a great celebration for Israel,” he said on the tarmac at Ben Gurion airport, near Tel Aviv, as a fork-lift truck started unloading the cargo from a red and yellow DHL air freighter.

The shipment was the first of eight million doses ordered from pharmaceutical giant Pfizer and its partner BioNTech.

It came ahead of Hanukkah, the Jewish Festival of Lights, which begins on Thursday.

“The end is in sight,” Netanyahu said about the disease which has infected 348,948 Israelis, 2,932 of them fatally, according to a Wednesday update.

“What is important to me is that Israeli citizens get vaccinated,” he added.

“I want to serve as an example to them and I intend to be the first to be injected with this vaccine in the state of Israel.”

Read Also: 90-Year-Old British Grandmother First To Receive Pfizer COVID-19 Vaccine

The Pfizer vaccine has yet to receive the necessary regulatory approvals for use in Israel but Netanyahu said he expected it to receive clearance “in the very near” future.

The results of third-phase clinical trials showed that the vaccine was 90 percent effective in preventing Covid-19 symptoms and did not produce adverse side effects among thousands of volunteers.

Britain started inoculating its citizens with the vaccine on Tuesday.

Israel has also contracted to buy six million Covid-19 vaccine doses from US biotech firm Moderna which are expected to be delivered in 2021, giving a total of 14 million shots for its population of nine million.

 

This combination of file pictures created on August 05, 2020 shows a sign for Pfizer pharmaceutical company in Cambridge, Massachusetts, on March 18, 2017, and the Moderna headquarters in Cambridge, Massachusetts on May 18, 2020. DOMINICK REUTER, Joseph Prezioso / AFP

 

Both medications require two doses to be administered for optimal protection.

The Pfizer vaccine needs to be stored at the ultra-low temperature of -70 degrees Celsius (-94 Fahrenheit), posing handling and storage challenges.

– ‘Amazing’ facilities –
At the airport, Netanyahu praised “our amazing logistical storage centre, which is a few minutes from here, with refrigeration and the highest medical standards in the world”.

Israel imposed a second nationwide lockdown in September, when the country had one of the world’s highest per capita infection rates.

Restrictions have since been gradually eased but infection rates are again on the rise.

On Monday, Netanyahu’s office announced a sweeping night-time curfew but it has so far not received the cabinet approval required for its implementation and no details have been published.

Israel’s government has not yet commented on whether its vaccine procurement would cater for Palestinians in the occupied West Bank or the Gaza Strip.

The Palestinian Authority says that over 75,500 people have so far been infected with coronavirus in the West Bank and 712 have died.

In the Israeli-blockaded Gaza Strip there have been about 25,500 infections and 155 fatalities.

On Monday, the strip’s Hamas rulers said Gaza had received 20,000 test kits from the World Health Organization, after warning it could no longer perform testing due to a shortage of equipment.

Facing a surge in cases, Hamas has also announced a lockdown on weekends lasting from December 11 to the end of the month. It also closed schools, universities, kindergartens and mosques.

AFP

Pfizer To Deliver First COVID-19 Vaccine Doses To Canada In December – PM

(FILES) In this file photo taken on February 14, 2020 Canada’s Prime Minister Justin Trudeau addresses a press conference at the 56th Munich Security Conference (MSC) in Munich, southern Germany. Thomas KIENZLE / AFP.

 

Pfizer and BioNTech will deliver the first doses of their Covid-19 vaccine to Canada this month, Prime Minister Justin Trudeau announced Monday, with inoculations to start as early as next week.

“Canada has secured an agreement with Pfizer to begin early delivery of doses of their vaccine candidate,” Trudeau told a news conference.

“We are now contracted to receive up to 249,000 of our initial doses of Pfizer BioNTech’s Covid-19 vaccine in the month of December,” he said.

Pending Health Canada regulatory approval, expected this week, the prime minister said the first shipments to 14 sites across Canada could be delivered next week, with millions more doses to follow in 2021.

The federal government has contracted with several pharmaceutical companies — including AstraZeneca, Pfizer and BioNTech, Sanofi and GSK, Novavax, Johnson & Johnson, Medicago and Moderna — to secure more than 400 million vaccine doses for its population of 38 million.

The US giant Pfizer and its German partner BioNTech’s vaccine is at the most advanced stage, having proved 95 percent effective in late-stage clinical trials and already secured approval in Britain where its world-first rollout is to begin Tuesday.

Ottawa in August signed a deal with Pfizer for 20 million doses plus options for millions more.

It poses some logistical challenges, however, including that it must be stored at extreme sub-zero temperatures and requires two doses given a week apart to be effective.

Major-General Dany Fortin, who is leading Canada’s vaccine rollout, said it will take only one or two days after it arrives to “unpack, thaw, decant, mix” and inject it into the arms of Canadians.