Hadassah bringing 1.5 million doses of Russian COVID-19 vaccine to Israel

Scientists develop a vaccine against the coronavirus disease in Saint Petersburg
(photo credit: REUTERS)

"Hadassah is always a pioneer," said Prof. Zeev Rotstein.

Hadassah-University Medical Center has received confirmation that it can purchase and bring some 1.5 million doses of the Russian coronavirus vaccine candidate, Sputnik V, to Israel in the coming months. The hospital is also attempting to register the vaccine with the Health Ministry, which would allow it to administer the vaccine to Israelis if approved.
Hadassah director-general Prof. Zeev Rotstein told The Jerusalem Post he was completing the paperwork, and it should be submitted to the ministry no later than the beginning of next week.
The hospital was asked by the Russian vaccine authority to submit the registration file to the Health Ministry, Rotstein said. If the vaccine is successful and the Health Ministry approves, it could be offered to Israelis within two or three months, he said.
It would also be the first coronavirus vaccine to be registered with the ministry.
“Hadassah is always a pioneer,” Rotstein said.
Hadassah’s branch in Moscow’s Skolkovo Innovation Center has been collaborating on a Phase III clinical trial, which Rotstein said should be complete in the next month or two. That trial is testing the vaccine on some 40,000 people in Russia and several other countries. Tens of thousands of volunteers have already received the vaccine.
The Russian vaccine is based on the coronavirus itself. The most common vaccines are live vaccines that use a weakened form of the germ that causes a disease. Because these vaccines are so similar to the natural infection they help prevent, they create a strong and long-lasting immune response.
In September, an article published in the peer-reviewed medical journal The Lancet showed that Sputnik V produced an antibody response in all participants in early-stage trials.
The results of the Phase I and Phase II trials, conducted in June and July and involving 76 participants, showed 100% of participants developing antibodies to the new coronavirus and no serious side effects, The Lancet said.
Some Western experts, including some scientists in Israel, have warned against the use of the vaccine until all internationally approved testing and regulatory steps have been taken. They have also questioned Russia’s ability to develop the vaccine so quickly.
But Rotstein said it was “not right to be skeptical. There are a lot of accusations regarding Russian technology and science. But if you remember, the fact that they called it Sputnik V is to say to the world, ‘Remember who was first in space.’ Russia could be very advanced.”
Sputnik V refers to the world’s first artificial satellite, Sputnik I, launched during the space race at the height of the Cold War. Russian framed the worldwide effort to develop a coronavirus vaccine as a similar race, and Russian President Vladimir Putin said his country has won the race.
The hesitation in Israel over the Russian vaccine has more to do with the US-Russia struggle over the primacy of finding the vaccine and not its quality, Rotstein said. Whether the vaccine is safe and effective will not be known until the Phase III trial is completed, he said.
The hospital is purchasing the vaccine doses on its own, Rotstein said, without specifying how much they cost. The procurement was backed by a group of investors, and it should not harm the hospital’s already volatile budget, he said.
Hadassah is examining the possibility of opening a vaccine production facility in Jerusalem, which “is important because the quantity is limited,” Rotstein said.

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