Pfizer’s vice president and chief scientist last week seemed to confirm what many skeptics have been saying for months, that Israel was something of a guinea pig for the company’s COVID-19 vaccine.
“Early in the pandemic we established a relationship with the Israeli Ministry of Health where they used exclusively the Pfizer vaccine and then monitored it very closely, so we had a sort of laboratory where we could see the effect (of the vaccine),” said Pfizer’s Chief Scientific Officer Philip Dormitzer in a video conference call. Israel’s Channel 12 News picked up the quote and made it the focus of its Friday broadcast.
Israel’s current Corona “czar” Dr. Nachman Ash spoke on Israeli radio to take issue with the use of the word “laboratory” to describe Israel’s role, and to reject the notion that there was any exclusivity in the deal between Pfizer and the Jewish state. But exclusive or not, former Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu has already acknowledged that he managed to procure so many vaccine doses by agreeing to share medical data that would enable Pfizer to track the effectiveness and any possible side effects of its product.
“We can do this because our health system is among the most advanced in the world, truly a light unto the nations,” said Netanyahu back in January. “Making Israel a ‘model country’ will enable us to vaccinate all citizens of Israel over the age of 16 by the end of March and perhaps even earlier.”
Pfizer CEO Albert Bourla also touched on this in a Financial Times interview last month when he explained why Israel, with its small population and advanced medical record-keeping, was the ideal “test case” country.
So, as Dr. Dormitzer put it, Israel did indeed serve as a kind of test lab for Pfizer as the world clamored for a cure to COVID.
It should be noted that this was not a surprise to Israelis, most of whom decided to take what they saw as an acceptable risk by flocking to vaccination stations (experts, both foreign and Israeli, insist that there was no risk at all).
Still, news of Dormitzer’s remarks could now further complicate Prime Minister Naftali Bennett’s efforts to convince the remaining one million unvaccinated Israelis to get the Pfizer jab. Following the Channel 12 report, anti-vaccine activists said they had been validated in refusing to take part in what they called “Pfizer’s experiment in Israel.”
Pfizer itself stepped in to try and calm the waters with a statement to Channel 12 reading:
“[We are] aware of a video clip featuring an interview with one of our scientists, who unfortunately misspoke on a key point we wish to clarify: We are grateful for the cooperation between Pfizer and the Israeli Health Ministry. It is not a clinical research study. This is a non-interventional ‘real world’ evidence data collection collaboration. …[Israel] does not serve as a laboratory, but rather, as the first nation to achieve significant rates of vaccine uptake.”