Israel’s world-leading vaccination campaign has come under fire after a data-for-dose deal was signed with Pfizer, in which the country pledged to share medical information with the pharmaceutical giant.
The Israeli Ministry of Health has agreed to share vaccination data with different population groups to help assess how quickly herd immunity is achieved.
In return, Pfizer agreed to maintain the delivery rate fast enough so that herd immunity can be achieved “as soon as possible”.
Pfizer says it is the only deal it has made with a country, while an AstraZeneca spokesman said he was unaware that the British-Swedish company had made similar deals.
Israel has refused to say whether it paid a premium to receive the Pfizer thrusts, but it has reportedly paid double the usual rate.
While vaccine supplies have allowed Israel to take a leap forward in the global race – nearly 20 percent of the population are already getting the full two doses – the deal with Pfizer has raised privacy concerns among experts.
People wait in line to get a Covid-19 vaccine in Jerusalem last month. Israel leads the global vaccine race after signing a “data for cans” deal with Pfizer
Israel’s high quality health system – which was ranked the fifth most efficient in the world in 2020 – is widely recognized as one of the reasons for its successful launch.
However, it is also considered to be of high quality, which makes it an attractive place to do business for pharmaceutical companies.
The Israeli Ministry of Health last month released an edited copy of the “Real-World Epidemiological Evidence Cooperation Agreement” signed with Pfizer.
Pfizer spokeswoman Jerica Pitts told NPR that the US-based company has not signed a similar contract with any other country.
The Pfizer deal calls on the Israeli Ministry of Health to provide data such as weekly number of vaccinations by age group and other demographic subgroups.
It is said that Israel is “relying on … Pfizer’s product delivery rate to keep vaccination rates as high as possible, for herd immunity and to get enough data as soon as possible.”
Pfizer agreed that the “feasibility and success” of the project “depends on the rate and extent of vaccinations in Israel,” which means it must stay well filled.
The agreement adds that the data collection is “extremely beneficial” in order to “assess whether herd immunity protection is being respected during the rollout”.
However, some experts disagree, warning that private medical details could be identified and expressing concerns that data could be hacked.
Tehilla Shwartz Altshuler, a data protection specialist at the Israel Democracy Institute’s think tank, expressed concern about a cyber attack.
“Your insurance company knows your entire medical history. Your employer will know, ”she said, describing the possible consequences of a successful hack.
“The political activist trying to convince you to vote for someone would know all about your medical history, not to mention people who want to marry your children.”
Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu, envisioning a dose of the vaccine, described the deal as “statistical data that will help develop strategies to fight the coronavirus”.
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