image Photo: Flash90

Israel, Austria & Denmark sign vaccine pact

Israel, Austria and Denmark have announced plans to set up a joint initiative for the research, development and production of vaccines. The program will be aimed at both ensuring long-term supplies for booster shots, as well as methods to counter mutations of the disease.

Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu announced the new pact after hosting his Austrian and Danish counterparts for talks. They were also escorted on a tour of a gym open to people who are documented as having been fully vaccinated with the Pfizer/BioNTech vaccine or recovered from COVID-19 with presumed immunity, in a demonstration of the efficacy of the country’s Green Pass model.

“This is a special day when two dynamic European leaders come together to Jerusalem to discuss together how we continue the battle against COVID,” said the Israeli leader, explaining that, “90% of our population has received one jab or two, or has already recovered… I think Israel serves as a model for the world, and we’re discussing some of our experiences, sharing those experiences with our friends, and indeed you are two wonderful friends for Israel.”

“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, clarifying that the primary purpose to the visit is to explore ways “to protect our people against the re-emergence of this pandemic or mutations, and we want to create two capacities. We think that by joining our resources, the resources of three small, but very able and gifted countries, we can better meet these challenges.”

Vienna and Copenhagen have been pressured by delays in vaccine distribution by the European Union, to which they are both members. The 27-state bloc has trailed far behind Israel’s world-beating vaccination campaign.

The three leaders also held a working meeting with their countries’ professional teams. The heads of government and their representatives discussed the fight against the coronavirus in all its aspects, as well as the establishment of the joint fund.

Among the issues that were raised were the ability to produce vaccines, the research and development of vaccines and drugs, cooperation in the field of regulation, routine life under the coronavirus, exit strategy and the education system.

The trilateral pact, Austrian Chancellor Sebastian 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,” he said.

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

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

Also attending the meeting were the Israeli Health Minister Yuli Edelstein, National Security Council head Meir Ben-Shabbat, Prime Minister’s Office Acting Director General Tzachi Braverman and Health Ministry Director General Prof. Chezy Levy. Markus Muller, who is the Advisor on Coronavirus Affairs to Austrian Chancellor Kurz was present, as was the Director of the Danish Health Ministry Institute for Disease Prevention and Vaccine Development Henrik Ullman.

Netanyahu has made Israeli’s rapid inoculation program a showcase of his campaign for the upcoming 23 March election.

“We will be, together, ‘Vaccination Nations,’” he commented regarding 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.”