Israel's vaccine success due to Netanyahu's 'data sharing agreement'
Israel's vaccine programme success 'down to Netanyahu's data sharing agreement' with Pfizer
Israel is leading the world in vaccinating its population, but the programme has been snagged by major controversies regarding data sharing and the neglect of Palestinians in the West Bank.
The success of Israel's expansive Covid-19 vaccination programme could be down to a secret data sharing agreement between Benjamin Netanyahu's government and Pfizer, the makers of the vaccines, according to a report by The Financial Times.
Around 40 percent of the Israeli population has been given at least one dose of the Covid-19 vaccine since deliveries began in mid-December, with just over 1.1 million of the 9 million population having received both jabs.
The success of the programme will likely play a key role in Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu's election campaign this March, with the Likud leader even framing the syringe he received his own Covid-19 jab from.
The speed of the roll-out has been portrayed as a big win for the Likud government with almost weekly flights bringing in the Pfizer vaccine to Israel, allowing for an expansive inoculation campaign to take place.
Other countries, including the US, have struggled to get anywhere near the numbers vaccinated that Israel has achieved.
Health Minister Yuli Edelstein said the drive is down to an agreement between Netanyahu and Pfizer Chief Executive Albert Bourla in late 2020.
Pfizer agreed to shipping millions of vials of the vaccine to Israel in return for information on the pandemic - a win-win for both parties.
"The company will be able to boast about it, to make profit from it and to publicise it," Edelstein told The Financial Times.
"Without this, any company wouldn't even be looking at our direction - they would be looking for markets a hundred times the size."
Israeli hospitals have started collecting data on antibody counts in staff, as well as the results of the vaccines, which have come in at such rapid rate that Israel is set for a surplus.
It has led to further criticism of Israel's refusal to provide jabs for Palestinians in the occupied West Bank.
Activists and human rights groups say that as an occupying force in the West Bank, Israel has a legal responsibility to provide medical support - including vaccines - to the Palestinian population.
Edelstein suggested that Israel could provide vaccines to Palestinians - who are still waiting deliveries of Russia's Sputnik jab and vaccines from the WHO's COVAX programme - although nothing yet has been decided.
"We are not in the business of trading the extra vaccines," he told the financial daily.
"We want to make sure we have enough for us and, if there is enough, we will see what we can do for our immediate neighbours - the fact that the Palestinians are in a bad shape right now is not in Israel's interests." Israel has suffered a major outbreak of Covid-19, which some say is in part due to the non-compliance to lockdown measures among sections of the country's ultra-Orthodox population.
It is a sensitive issue for Netanyahu whose coalition includes ultra-Orthodox parties, with police clashing with youth from the community.