Health Ministry said to warn of vaccine shortfall in coming weeks

Health officials warned Sunday of a shortfall of Pfizer-BioNTech vaccines.

They have told health providers to use the hundreds of thousands of shots arriving in Israel in the next two weeks on those who received the first dose of the vaccine, Channel 12 reported.

The officials are worried that they will not have enough doses for the 1.5 million Israelis who have yet to be immunized at all. Talks are ongoing with Pfizer-BioNTech to increase the supply, the report said.

This week and next month, shipments of Moderna shots are set to arrive in Israel, but the health officials said the quantities will be relatively small, according to Channel 12. The report said the warnings were not believed to be a fake distress call meant to simulate a shortage to spur people to get vaccinated.

The Maariv daily reported, however, that the Health Ministry said the Pfizer-BioNTech shipments will stop in about two weeks, but will not cause a shortage.

Health Minister Yuli Edelstein told health providers that hundreds of thousands of Moderna shots will arrive in March. He said part of the shipment will be kept for vaccinating Palestinian workers who cross into Israel, and part will be for vaccinating people who have recovered from the virus, Ynet reported.

The Health Ministry on Saturday recommended vaccinating those who recovered from COVID-19 with one dose, instead of two.

A health worker of the Maccabi Healthcare Services administers a dose of Pfizer-BioNtech vaccine to a woman inside a van in Tel Aviv-Jaffa, on February 16, 2021. (JACK GUEZ / AFP)

The Palestinian Authority said Friday that Israel had agreed to vaccinate 100,000 Palestinians who work in Israel, but unnamed Israeli officials told Ynet that no decision had yet been made.

The Health Ministry said Sunday that over 4.2 million Israelis have received their first vaccine dose, and over 2.8 million have received the second, out of a population of 9 million.

Some 3 million Israelis are ineligible to receive the virus, including most children under the age of 16.

The Health Ministry said Saturday that coronavirus vaccines were “dramatically” effective and the latest data showed the shots were 98.9% effective at preventing death caused by COVID-19.

According to the data released by the ministry, the vaccine is also 99.2% protective against serious illness, reduces morbidity by 95.8% and decreases the chance of hospitalization by 98.9%.

The data release came as Israel rolled back some of the major restrictions imposed in late December as part of a third lockdown aimed at curbing the spread of COVID-19, with stores, gyms, hotels and other venues allowed to reopen on Sunday morning to those who have been vaccinated or have recovered from the virus.

The reopenings came amid a continued decline in morbidity, particularly among high-risk groups, which is largely being credited to Israel’s rapid vaccination campaign.

There are 44,728 active infections in Israel, and 747,965 cases since the start of the pandemic, including 3,014 new infections recorded on Saturday, the Health Ministry said.

The death toll stood at 5,569.

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