Israel Approves Moderna’s COVID-19 Vaccine – First Country Outside North America
The mobile station, which opened Friday in a large city park, allows Israeli citizens and residents over the age of 60 to walk in and be vaccinated on the spot.

BREAKING – Israel’s Ministry of Health on Tuesday approved the administration of Moderna’s COVID-19 vaccine, making it the first country outside of North America to greenlight the US-based startup’s candidate.

The announcement by Moderna said that deliveries of the vaccine to Israel would begin already in January – sharply advancing a schedule that was originally to have begun in March.

“First deliveries are expected to begin shortly,” the press release stated, noting that “Israel is the third country for which Moderna has received authorization for its COVID-19 vaccine” following the US and Canada on 18 and 23 December 2020 respectively. The European Union (EU), Singapore, UK and Switzerland are also reviewing the candidate.

Moderna’s vaccine is based upon a novel mRNA technology similar to that being used by Pfizer/BioNTech, already being deployed in a number of countries worldwide.

The vaccine was approved against the specter of mounting COVID-19 infections in Israel, despite the massive vaccine campaign already underway: more than 1 million people have an initial Pfizer vaccine dose.

Israel’s average rates of new infections, are among the highest in the world currently, with Switzerland holding one of the highest rates in western Europe.

While the campaign has placed Israel at the top of the list of vaccine doses administered per-capita, it is racing against time to beat back infection rates by vaccinating more people.

Israel’s average rates of new infections – which are among the highest in the world currently – are running at about 66 people per 100,000, as compared to 64 per 100,000 in the United States and 82 per 100,000 in the United Kingdom.

Israel has secured around 6 million doses of Moderna’s vaccine. Together with another large order secured from Pfizer, the two vaccines should be sufficient to vaccinate most of the country’s 9 million residents even before a locally-developed vaccine – currently in Phase 2 trials – becomes available, most likely in the summer.

Switzerland Delay of Moderna Vaccine Approval – Doses in Visp Can Ship Immediately To Israel

Ironically, the Moderna vaccine will be imported to Israel from the Swiss-based firm Lonza, where hundreds of thousands of vaccine doses were already in production in December at the company’s manufacturing facility in Visp.

In light of the Swiss and European delays in approving the Moderna vaccine, ready-to-use vaccines can be shifted to Israel for the time being, which is eager to get its order right away.

Swiss approval of the Moderna vaccine by the national regulatory authority, Swissmedic, has lagged behind that of the Pfizer counterpart, which was approved by Swissmedic in December.

That is despite the fact that the expert panel of the US Food and Drug Administration gave the Moderna vaccine an even higher vote of confidence than it did the Pfizer candidate, when it reviewed both vaccines in meetings only a week apart last month.

While the US and China have already rolled out more than 4.5 million doses of COVID-19 vaccines, and Israel and the UK have reached or exceeded the one million mark, the rest of Europe is moving much more slowly.

Switzerland’s slow start to its vaccination campaign has been the subject of sharp criticism.

And among European countries, the number of vaccines administered by Switzerland have so far been negligible. Only half of the country’s Cantons have even begun their campaigns – which major efforts only set to kick off in some regions, such as the heavily populated and heavily infected Canton of Vaud, bordering Geneva, next week.

The slow Swiss start to its own national rollout has become a growing focus of criticism, particularly in light of Switzerland’s high infection rates. At about 40 new cases per 100,000, Switzerland has a new infection rate that is one of the highest in western Europe outside of the United Kingdom.

“In another ten days, all of the Israeli population over the age of 60 will have been vaccinated  – our vaccination programme is a fiasco that is costing lives every day and will continue to destroy still for months our economy,” Swiss lawmaker Philippe Natermod, vice president of the Swiss Freel Democratic Party, (PLR) and a member of the Swiss Federal Council, lamented in a recent Tweet.

Last week, in an exclusive interview with Health Policy Watch, a senior scientist at the University of Lausanne also complained about the unnecessary loss of lives as well as lifelong cases of COVID-related disability that would occur as a result of the delayed vaccine rollout.

“The Department of Health doesn’t seem to understand that in just three weeks of delay, with 4,000 new infections per day, 100 will die everyday. That means in three weeks, more than 2,000 people will die unduly,” said Dr Pierre Goloubinoff, a biologist who has been doing research on COVID-19 treatments, as a result of the pandemic.

“If we could do a vaccine blitz, and vaccinate all of the high-risk population in a month, in terms of the economy it would be completely liberating.”

Switzerland has also been criticised for carrying out far too few tests to adequately chart the spread of coronavirus.

Switzerland has ordered approximately 13 million COVID-19 doses: 4.5 million doses from Moderna, 5.3 million from AstraZeneca, and 3 million of the Pfizer/Biontech vaccine.

But in the absence of a Swissmedic approval of the Moderna vaccine, only the Pfizer vaccine doses are approved for use. And only 107,000 doses of that vaccine have been delivered so far.

Vaud’s Health Minister Rebecca Ruiz told Swiss Radio RTS that regional authorities  have also been left to fend for themselves in terms of setting up an adequate vaccination infrastructure – after requesting help from the army to set up mobile vaccination units. “But our request was refused, so we are left to our own devices”, she pointed out.

In a series of messages conveyed by the Swiss Mission in Geneva to UN international organizations, Swiss health authorities said that the initial phases of the vaccine campaign would be focused on people over the age of 75 living in care homes, as well as health workers, in light of the limited vaccine supplies.

The statements also pointedly stated that the vaccine campaign is of unprecedented logistical complexity.

Image Credits: Our World in Data, Our World in Data.

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