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Pfizer to ‘Post’: No plans to open COVID-19 vaccine R&D center in Israel

CM 18/05/2021

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There are no plans to open a Pfizer research and development center in Israel, a top-level corporate spokeswoman with the company told The Jerusalem Post.

“I’ve checked internally and confirmed that we do not have plans for this,” a senior manager for corporate communications said. “It sounds like the talk around it has been coming from local politicians.”
Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu said as early as mid-February that he was in dialogue with Pfizer and a second American vaccine developer, Moderna, to open up plants in the Jewish state.
“I am negotiating with them to build two plants in Israel that will turn Israel into an international center in the fight against coronavirus,” Netanyahu told Channel 12 in a late-night interview in the midst of his re-election campaign. He said that the Moderna factory would focus on “filling the small vaccine vials” while Pfizer’s plant would serve as a “research and development site for the fight against future viruses.”
He reiterated the intention to open these plants multiple times leading up to the March 23 election.
Yeruham Mayor Tal Ohana confirmed for the Post last month that she had been in touch with Moderna about manufacturing its vaccines in the southern city, but said that because there was no established plant, the company could not move forward at present.
“They said to come back in the future” about the idea, Ohana told the Post. “We have not closed the door on Moderna.”

Former Israeli Ambassador to the United States Ron Dermer said he was on nearly all of the 30 calls between Pfizer CEO Albert Bourla and the prime minister. 
In a closed briefing he gave on March 24, a recording of which was obtained by the Post, Dermer confirmed that Netanyahu managed to convince Bourla to provide Israel with the vaccines due to its sophisticated health database that dates back three decades.
“The medical database is a huge advantage and the prime minister recognized it. And he told Bourla about it early and Bourla was able to convince Pfizer that Israel was a country to bet on,” Dermer said. “He bet on Israel and he won his bet.”
The former ambassador said that Netanyahu spoke about how he could “turn Israel’s medical database into a huge asset for the country moving forward. We are a cyber power – people get that. We are becoming a power in artificial intelligence. 
“I think when it comes to our health database, and turning Israel into a beta site for a lot of potential discoveries and vaccines and innovations in the medical field, Israel I think is really going to take off there,” he said.
Dermer declined to comment to the Post.
In addition, the Post reached out to the Prime Minister’s Office and Health Ministry for comment but has not yet received responses.
This is a developing story.

Source: Jerusalem Post

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