‘I trust the vaccine’ – Palestinians line up for shots to work in Israel

Palestinians on receiving the coronavirus vaccines needed to be able to cross and work in Israel.

Hiyi Ouanina did not want to infect her elderly mother with COVID-19, so she was grateful to be one of the 120,000 Palestinian workers whom Israel plans to inoculate against the virus over the next two weeks.
“I don’t want to make other people sick,” Ouanina told The Jerusalem Post on Tuesday as she sat in the West Bank settlement of Efrat, recovering briefly from the quick injection of a Moderna vaccine.
She was among the first 21,000 Palestinians to receive the vaccine in a joint operation run by the Office of the Coordinator of the Government Activities in the Territories (COGAT), the Health Ministry and Magen David Adom that began Monday.
The mother of four with an easy smile, who spoke English from her school days, said many Palestinians are fearful of the vaccination, and their comments “made me afraid.”
She was grateful to receive a vaccine offered to her by Israel rather than the Palestinian Authority and felt safer when she received the shot.
“I trust it [the Israeli vaccine] more,” said Ouanina, a resident of the nearby village of Battir.
As she sat on a white plastic chair in a large bare room at the bottom of a small commercial center, Ouanina said she was lucky to have been inoculated thanks to her work as a housekeeper in nearby Neveh Daniel.
The PA has done little to help its people receive a vaccine, she said, adding that its best advice was for people to refrain from going to work and to “just stay home.”
Israel has vaccinated more than five million of its citizens. The number of infections has started to drop, and the country has begun to reopen for business.
The PA is relying on a lockdown strategy as it scrambles to acquire vaccines. So far, only 22,000 vaccines have entered the Gaza Strip, and another 10,000 have gone to the West Bank.
The program to vaccinate Palestinians who have work permits to enter Israel, including the settlements, represents the best chance Palestinians have to receive the vaccine.
Israel has been under fire for prioritizing its citizens first in the vaccination process. Critics believe Israel should have distributed the first 10 million doses, enough for five million people, it received from Pfizer equitably between Israeli citizens and Palestinians in the West Bank and Gaza.
Israel plans to prioritize the Palestinians once its own vaccination program is completed. It has argued that under the Oslo Accords, the PA is responsible for the healthcare of its citizens. In addition to the workers’ program, it also gave the Palestinians 2,000 doses of the Pfizer vaccine and pledged an additional 3,000.
Col. Eyal Zevi, COGAT’s head of Operational Department, spoke of the importance of vaccinating Palestinians on Monday, when the IDF opened eight vaccination centers at the crossings into Israel.
“The virus knows no geographical borders, and therefore, the vaccination of the Palestinian workers is a common interest for both parties,” he said.
On Tuesday, Health Minister Yuli Edelstein visited Barkan Industrial Park in Samaria to make the opening of its vaccination center for the Palestinians who jointly work with Israelis in the factories located there. Both he and Samaria Regional Council head Yossi Dagan congratulated the first Palestinian worker who was vaccinated at the site.

Edelstein then traveled to the nearby city of Ariel to inaugurate another vaccination center with Mayor Eli Shaviro.

At both locations, Edelstein spoke of the importance of coexistence with the Palestinians as exhibited in the joint industrial areas of Barkan and Ariel.
This is what the future should look like, he said, adding: “This is the future. This is peace. This is coexistence.”
Efrat Regional Council head Oded Ravivi said: “Coronavirus teaches us how important good neighborliness is; how good relations between settlers and Palestinians can be when we cooperate.”
But for the Palestinians who walked to the small stone vaccination center, with its Arabic signs and Arabic-speaking staff, the vaccine was less about coexistence and more about safety and work.
Hanadi Abdo, a cashier at the Rami Levy supermarket near Gush Etzion junction, said inoculation was a work requirement, but she was glad for the option because she is exposed daily to a constant stream of people.
“We need this,” she said, adding that luckily, her two adult daughters are college students and were also able to receive vaccines.
“I wanted to get vaccinated. I don’t want corona,” Abdo said, adding that she also had a 13-year-old daughter whose safety she had to think of.
Walid Ahmad Abu Swai, a plumber from Bethlehem and a father of four, was in Efrat with his son, who also received the vaccine. His other son was also able to get vaccinated, but his two daughters and his wife were not.
Mahmoud Zohada, the head of a construction team in Efrat, said his father had already been stricken and recovered from the disease.
“I was in isolation for five weeks,” the father of four said, adding that he convinced those who work for him to get vaccinated.
Zohada is waiting for the second vaccine, which will be available to the 120,000 workers in a month.
But a number of Palestinians interviewed by the Post said the vaccine made them nervous and that they had agreed to be vaccinated because it was a work requirement.
Eyad Abu Hammad said if it were up to him, he would ward off COVID-19 with hot water, lemon and garlic rather than risk taking the vaccine.
“I know many people who have had COVID-19 and were fine,” he said, so when push came to shove, he was more concerned about the inoculation than the disease.
“I was afraid because I don’t know enough about the vaccine,” Abu Hammad said, adding that there were still many unanswered questions about the long-term impact of vaccination.
Still, the father of five from the West Bank village of Wadi an Nis, southwest of Bethlehem, found himself in the unique position of being the only one in his family of seven with the option to receive the vaccine.
Abu Hammad said he did not have a choice. His employer in Neveh Daniel said he could only come to work if was vaccinated.
After receiving his shot, the IDF gave him a vaccination certificate on a small white piece of paper, and his friend took a photo of the moment.
Afterward, all he felt was a small headache, he said.
With the shot and without the shot, “I’m leaving my fate in God’s hand,” Abu Hammad said.•

Israel, Austria and Denmark establish vaccine-supply alliance

Israel, Austria and Denmark said on Thursday they would set up a joint research and development fund and possibly production facilities for COVID-19 vaccines to ensure they had long-term supplies for booster shots or to contend with virus mutations.

European Union members Austria and Denmark have been chafing at delays in ordering, approving and distributing vaccines within here 27-member bloc that have left it trailing far behind Israel’s world-beating vaccination campaign.

After hosting his Austrian and Danish counterparts for talks and a tour of an Israeli gym open to those documented as having been vaccinated or recovered from COVID-19 with presumed immunity, Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu announced the pact.

“Once we get over this cycle of the disease we have no guarantee that it won’t come back. We don’t know how long – nobody knows – how long these vaccines will hold up,” he said at a joint news conference. “And therefore we have to protect our people against the reemergence of this pandemic or mutations.”

Austria’s Sebastian Kurz said he was “very happy” about an EU vaccine initiative “but we also need to cooperate worldwide”.

The European Commission has said member states were free to strike separate deals should they wish to.

The trilateral pact, Kurz said, would include investment in production plants in Europe and Israel, and each country contributing where it best can to the manufacturing cycle.

“In Austria, for example, lipid production necessary for many vaccines is already taking place,” the chancellor said.

Danish Prime Minister Mette Frederiksen said her country was looking to expand its production capacity. “We would like in common also to explore possible cooperation on clinical trials” with Israel and Austria, she said.

Netanyahu, who said 90% of eligible Israelis have either received at least one dose of the Pfizer/BioNTech vaccine or recovered from the virus, has made the programme a showcase of his campaign for a March 23 election.

“We will be, together, ‘Vaccination Nations’,” he said of the deal with Austria and Denmark. “And we agreed that if other nations want to join us, we will discuss this among ourselves and welcome others to come in as well.”

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Israel expands its COVID-19 vaccination push, scrapping age cap

A month and a half after launching its world-leading coronavirus vaccination campaign, the Jewish state allows all its citizens aged 16 and over to get vaccinated against the pathogen, having already vaccinated 3.3 million citizens with the first vaccine dose and 1.9 million with the second booster shot

Israel expanded its COVID-19 vaccination campaign Thursday morning to include all citizens aged 16 and over.

So far, the Jewish state has only allowed Israelis over the age of 35 to get the vaccine, later adding high school students between the ages of 16–18 to enable them to attend their matriculation exams later in the year.

Some healthcare providers have previously allowed some people under the age of 35 to receive the vaccine, mainly due to fear of discarding unused vaccine doses.
Health Minister Yuli Edelstein took to Twitter to urge all citizens to go and get vaccinated.
“Come on down, this is the only way we can beat coronavirus — together”, Edelstein wrote. “Starting this morning, anyone over the age of 16 can get vaccinated. Use this opportunity, almost no other country in the world has it.”

Clalit Health Services CEO Ehud Davidson congratulated on the expansion of the country’s inoculation campaign and joined Edelstein’s call.

“The vaccine is our most efficient tool in dealing with the pandemic,” Davidson said. “We are operating over 170 vaccination centers across the country. Clalit teams, who lead the vaccination campaign with much success and have already vaccinated over 1,650,000 patients are waiting for you — come get vaccinated.”
Health Ministry Director-General instructed the country’s healthcare providers to allow vaccinating citizens between the ages of 18–35 but at the same time, ordered to concentrate efforts on the over-50 age group and housebound citizens.
Israel has already vaccinated 3.3 million of its citizens with the first dose of the COVID-19 vaccine since the country launched its vaccination campaign in December, and 1.9 million of them have also been given the second booster shot — with some 107,000 of them being inoculated on Wednesday alone.

Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu said on Tuesday that Israel will begin gradually lifting lockdown restrictions next week while urging citizens to get vaccinated against COVID-19 as the more infectious British variant of the disease spreads nationwide.

“We are in the midst of a race between the vaccination campaign and the [COVID-19] variant,” Netanyahu told a press conference. “The vaccination campaign is our key to exiting the pandemic.”
The premier also said that 97% of the country’s COVID-19 victims and 93% of serious cases were among those aged 50 and over.
“If we take control of the disease in these age groups, and manage to vaccinate all over 50s, we will be on the path to victory over coronavirus, leaving any surprises like new variants. That is why I am setting a national goal to vaccinate 90% of those aged 50 and over in the next two weeks. It will allow us to gradually open the economy and save lives.”

Meanwhile, the government is scheduled to meet later on Thursday to discuss extending the nationwide lockdown and an exit strategy.

Prime Minister Netanyahu and Health Minister Edelstein will demand extending the lockdown’s travel restrictions until Sunday and gradually opening the education system afterward.

Blue & White will demand lifting restrictions starting Friday morning.

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Israel to receive Pfizer COVID-19 vaccine as early as December – report

Medical personnel to be vaccinated first, with general population possibly facing winter with no immunization

Israel is expected to receive up to half a million doses of the Pfizer Inc. vaccine against the coronavirus as early as December, one month earlier than originally hoped for, Channel 12 reported Monday.

According to the unsourced report, the country would receive anywhere between 200,000 and 500,000 doses of the vaccine and will devote them primarily to those working in the medical field, while the general population would not be vaccinated this winter.

The report also quoted a senior Health Ministry official as saying that the early arrival of the vaccine would have a “positive” effect on Israel’s battle against COVID-19 this winter.

Earlier this month, Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu announced that Israel had signed a deal with Pfizer to purchase coronavirus vaccine shots, days after the US pharmaceutical firm said data suggested its vaccine was 90 percent effective at preventing COVID-19.

As part of the agreement with Pfizer, Netanyahu said Israel would receive 8 million doses of the vaccine, enough to inoculate 4 million Israelis. Netanyahu expressed hope that Pfizer would begin supplying the vaccine in January, pending authorization from health officials in the United States and Israel.

Last Friday, Pfizer announced that it was asking US regulators to allow emergency use of its vaccine, starting the clock on a process that could end in limited first shots being administered as early as next month.

The request came days after Pfizer and its German partner BioNTech updated its data on the effectiveness of the vaccine, announcing that it appeared to be 95% effective at preventing mild to severe COVID-19.

Pursuing another avenue to procure vaccines, Netanyahu announced Friday that Israel was also close to signing a deal with AstraZeneca to purchase “millions” of doses of its vaccine.

If signed, it would be the third deal signed by Israel to receive vaccinations, following similar deals with Pfizer and Moderna. Israel has also been in talks with Russia to receive its Sputnik V vaccine, though some experts have questioned its opaque certification process.

However, none of the deals guarantees a deadline for the arrival of the vaccines, and with mass global demand, it is still not clear how many doses Israel will get, and when.

Israel has also been working on a home-grown vaccine, though it is currently only in phase 1 trials and its development is expected to take months longer than the foreign candidates. Channel 12 reported Friday that it will likely be available to the public this summer.


Israeli rapid COVID-19 test to be used in major European airports

A trial of the test last month involving some 400 people at Sheba showed about 95% accuracy.

A rapid COVID-19 screening test developed in Israel will be used to screen passengers in several European airports.
The test involves gargling with a small amount of special mouthwash and spitting it into a test tube.
Virusight Diagnostic, a newly formed Artificial Intelligence health care venture between Sheba Medical Center’s ARC Innovation Center and Newsight Imaging, has signed a strategic letter of intent for rapid screening of airline passengers with ICTS Europe, a security provider at major airports in 23 countries, Newsight announced in a statement on its website.
trial of the test last month involving some 400 people at Sheba showed about 95% accuracy.
“Tests will be immediate, affordable and monitored, so that airports and airlines can optimize the level of safety by mitigating the risk of COVID-19 infection,” the statement said.
The gargle test uses SpectraLIT, Newsight Imaging’s portable and accurate spectral analysis device, to determine the presence of the COVID-19 virus.
The article was published on The JPost

130 schools now closed; 17,605 staff, students in quarantine for virus

More new diagnoses in Tel Aviv than Jerusalem since Friday, despite more testing in capital; death toll rises as three more people succumb to COVID; 2,474 people currently infected with disease, including 111 new cases

The Education Ministry said on Sunday that 130 schools and kindergartens have been closed due to staff and students contracting the virus in the past 10 days – 24 of them since Saturday.
Additionally, 17,605 students and staff members are now in quarantine, an increase of 1,282 since Saturday.
So far, 352 students and staff members nationwide have been diagnosed with the virus in the current wave, including 22 over the past 24 hours.
The Health Ministry also said that more people have tested positive for coronavirus in Tel Aviv than Jerusalem since Friday, with 46 new cases in the coastal city as opposed to 37 in the capital.
The ministry also reported that over the past five days, some 13,000 tests for the virus were conducted in Jerusalem, while at the same time, only about 3,600 were carried out in Tel Aviv.
According to the ministry’s data, 111 new COVID-19 patients have been diagnosed, with the total number of cases rising to 17,863.
Three more patients have died from virus-related complications, bringing the total number of fatalities from the disease up to 298.
There has also been a climb in the number of people requiring respiratory assistance, with 23 patients currently using ventilators.
The number of daily recoveries has declined over the past few days, with only 26 registered on Sunday, while the number of active patients has risen by 283 to 2,474.
Health officials said Sunday that they fear a new outbreak is taking place in Jaffa, where 10 people have so far been diagnosed with the virus in recent days.
The article was published in Ynet

EIB signs collaboration with Israel Innovation Authority and €50 million financing agreement with Pluristem to develop therapies for COVID-19 and other unmet medical needs

  • European Investment Bank (EIB) backs Pluristem with €50 million of financing, which will help the company to advance the clinical development of its cell therapies and address a number of severe medical conditions
  • The deal is the first Israeli-European project guaranteed by the European Fund for Strategic Investments, the financial pillar of the Investment Plan for Europe, a joint initiative of the EIB and the European Commission
  • The signature was announced in the context of a Memorandum of Understanding, by which the EIB and the National Technological Innovation Authority of Israel have agreed to cooperate in the globally emerging field of bio-convergence

Today, the European Investment Bank and the Israel Innovation Authority signed a cooperation agreement to jointly pursue investment opportunities in the domain of bio-convergence in health. The intersection of biopharma, information technology and engineering is an important building block in supporting global public health goals. The agreement, initiated by kENUP Foundation, aims at deepening the links between Israel and the EU, fostering innovation in the region, closing investment gaps and jointly assuming global leadership in the area of bio-convergence. Ultimately, it is set to benefit Israeli and European citizens and corporations.

In the context of this Memorandum of Understanding, the EIB is supporting Pluristem through its German subsidiary Pluristem GmbH, with a venture debt loan of €50 million. Pluristem is a regenerative medicine company with a focus on novel biological products. The company uses cells derived from placentafor the development of product candidates for the treatment of severe medical conditions such as infections, inflammation, ischemia, muscle injury, haematological disorder or acute radiation syndrome. It has recently extended its activity in response to the coronavirus pandemic and treated several COVID-19 patients with acute respiratory failure under the “compassionate use” programme, a treatment option which allows the use of unauthorised medicine for severely ill patients.

The financing will support Pluristem’s research and development in the EU, notably its regenerative cell therapy platform. It will also allow the company to push its advanced clinical pipeline towards marketing. Pluristem will receive the financing in three tranches, subject to the achievement of pre-agreed clinical regulatory and scaling up milestones. The first tranche will consist of € 20 million. The company is the first Israeli-European business to benefit from a guarantee from the European Fund for Strategic Investments, the financial centre-piece of the Investment Plan for Europe, in which the EIB and the European Commission are working together to mobilise investment in the EU.Pluristem was previously funded by the Israel Innovation Authority.

European Commission Executive Vice-President Valdis Dombrovskis said: “The Investment Plan for Europe has a strong track record of supporting ground-breaking research and development in the health sector. Pluristem is carrying out highly innovative and crucial work in the fight against coronavirus, now boosted by financial backing from the EU.”

“Today’s signatures show that we are successful when we stand together,” said Ambroise Fayolle, EIB Vice-President in charge of innovation. “Israel is home to a thriving scene of innovative startups, which dominate the high-tech industry. Pluristem is an excellent example of Israeli-European cooperation and EIB support for them is particularly timely, as it will allow the company to develop a treatment for the most vulnerable COVID-19 patients. Working together often saves time and resources – in this case it has the potential to save lives.”

Dr Ami Appelbaum, Chairman, Israel Innovation Authority and Chief Scientist at the Ministry of Economy and Industry, explained: “Israel views bio-convergence as its next economic growth engine. This innovative approach serves as an engine to find efficient, diverse and ingenious approaches to health problem solving. It integrates biology with engineering, AI, physics, computation, nanotechnology and material science in order to address unmet needs in numerous industries, including health, agriculture, energy and defence. The collaboration between the European Investment Bank and the Israel Innovation Authority provides a unique opportunity to advance this area providing companies with various financing opportunities from early stage to growth. As the COVID-19 pandemic spreads globally, it is of vital importance to employ cutting edge technological innovation with global outreach to provide the much needed relief the world is looking for.”

EU Ambassador to Israel Emanuele Giaufret said: “A coordinated global response is needed to fight COVID-19, and the EU is launching a worldwide pledging marathon precisely to ensure that the world works together to find safe, effective and affordable treatments, diagnostics and vaccines. Today’s important agreement with the EIB will help to develop promising treatment for coronavirus, and is yet another achievement of the EU and Israel, strengthening our cooperation in research and innovation. We thank Israeli researchers for their efforts, and look forward to continued joint work for the benefit of all.”

Pluristem CEO and President Yaky Yanay stated: “Pluristem would like to thank the EIB for its financial support and its commitment to finding an effective treatment for life-threatening medical conditions, among them complications associated with COVID-19. Our company’s mission of harnessing the power of regenerative medicine to improve the wellbeing of an aging population has become more urgent than ever, as we work tirelessly to develop a treatment for COVID-19 complications while advancing our portfolio of products in advanced stage trials to treat a number of indications that may positively impact on global healthcare systems. We are honoured to become the first Israeli-European company to benefit from a guarantee from the European Fund for Strategic Investments.”

Background information

The European Investment Bank is the long-term lending institution of the European Union owned by its Member States. It makes long-term finance available for sound investments in order to contribute towards EU policy goals. The EIB also supports investments outside the EU.

About the Israel Innovation Authority

The Israel Innovation Authority, responsible for the country’s innovation policy, is an independent and impartial public entity that operates for the benefit of the Israeli innovation ecosystem and Israeli economy as a whole. Its role is to nurture and develop Israeli innovation resources, while creating and strengthening the infrastructure and framework needed to support the entire knowledge industry. The Israel Innovation Authority provides a variety of practical tools and funding platforms aimed at addressing the dynamic and changing needs of the local and international innovation ecosystems.

About the Investment Plan for Europe

The Investment Plan for Europe is one of the EU’s key actions to boost investment in Europe, thereby creating jobs and fostering growth. To this end, smarter use is made of new and existing financial resources. The EIB Group is playing a vital role in this investment plan. With guarantees from the European Fund for Strategic Investments, the EIB and EIF are able to take on a higher share of project risk, encouraging private investors to participate in the projects. To date, the projects and agreements approved under EFSI are expected to mobilise around €478 billion of investments and to benefit over 1 million small and medium-sized companies throughout the EU.

About Pluristem

Pluristem is a leading regenerative medicine company developing novel placenta-based cell therapy product candidates. The company has reported robust clinical trial data in multiple indications for its patented PLX cell product candidates and is currently conducting late stage clinical trials in several indications. PLX cell product candidates are believed to release a range of therapeutic proteins in response to inflammation, ischemia, muscle trauma, hematological disorders and radiation damage. The cells are grown using the company’s proprietary technology and can be administered to patients off-the-shelf, without tissue matching. Pluristem has a strong intellectual property position; a Company-owned and operated GMP-certified manufacturing and research facility; strategic relationships with major research institutions; and a seasoned management team.

About the EIB-IIA MoU

The Memorandum of Understanding between the EIB and the Israel Innovation Authority recognises the shared commitment to deepening the links between Israel and the EU, to foster innovation in the region, to close investment gaps and to jointly assume global leadership in the area of bio-convergence. The Israel Innovation Authority is a reliable partner for the EIB in view of its broad technical and sector expertise and its well-established relationships with relevant industrial and public players. At the invitation of kENUP Foundation, the EIB and the Innovation Authority convened a series of meetings between October 2018 and January 2020 to discuss future common endeavours. In addition, the EIB has identified a number of innovative smaller companies supported by the Innovation Authority with investments in Israel and in Europe, which are promising counterparts for EIB equity-type operations.

Safe Harbour Statement

This press release contains express or implied forward-looking statements within the Private Securities Litigation Reform Act of 1995 and other U.S. Federal securities laws. For example, Pluristem is using forward-looking statements when it discusses that the proceeds from the EIB financing will help it advance the clinical development of its cell therapies and address a number of severe medical conditions, as well as support its research and development of its regenerative cell therapy platform in the EU,  and allow it to push its advanced clinical pipeline towards marketing, that the cooperation agreement between the EIB and the Israel Innovation Authority is set to benefit Israeli and European citizens and corporations and that the agreement with the EIB will help to develop a promising treatment for coronavirus. While the EIB and Pluristem have executed the loan agreement, there is no guarantee that Pluristem will achieve the milestones necessary to receive any or all of the three tranches. These forward-looking statements and their implications are based on the current expectations of the management of Pluristem only, and are subject to a number of factors and uncertainties that could cause actual results to differ materially from those described in the forward-looking statements. The following factors, among others, could cause actual results to differ materially from those described in the forward-looking statements: changes in technology and market requirements; Pluristem may encounter delays or obstacles in launching and/or successfully completing its clinical trials; Pluristem’s products may not be approved by regulatory agencies, Pluristem’s technology may not be validated as it progresses further and its methods may not be accepted by the scientific community; Pluristem may be unable to retain or attract key employees whose knowledge is essential to the development of its products; unforeseen scientific difficulties may develop with Pluristem’s process; Pluristem’s products may wind up being more expensive than it anticipates; results in the laboratory may not translate to equally good results in real clinical settings; results of preclinical studies may not correlate with the results of human clinical trials; Pluristem’s patents may not be sufficient; Pluristem’s products may harm recipients; changes in legislation may adversely impact Pluristem; inability to timely develop and introduce new technologies, products and applications; loss of market share and pressure on pricing resulting from competition, which could cause the actual results or performance of Pluristem to differ materially from those contemplated in such forward-looking statements. Except as otherwise required by law, Pluristem undertakes no obligation to publicly release any revisions to these forward-looking statements to reflect events or circumstances after the date hereof or to reflect the occurrence of unanticipated events. For a more detailed description of the risks and uncertainties affecting Pluristem, reference is made to Pluristem’s reports filed from time to time with the Securities and Exchange Commission.

The article was statement was published on the European commission website