Responding to calls for transparency, Israel publishes contract of data-sharing vaccine deal with Pfizer

Redacted document appears to confirm health ministry statements that only publicly available information will be shared

CTech 19:0517.01.21
Israel’s Ministry of Health published on Sunday a redacted copy of a contract it signed with drugmaker Pfizer for the exchange of public medical data in return for the swift supply of Covid-19 vaccines. Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu had people guessing and concerned over the potential for privacy violations from the exchange after first announcing it earlier this month, but according to what can be seen of the document, it seems set to include only data that’s publicly available.


So far more than two million Israelis, making up more than 22% of the total population, have received the first dose of the Pfizer vaccine, making Israel a world leader in the administering of coronavirus vaccines. One of the main reasons the country has managed to do so was Pfizer's willingness to ship considerable numbers of doses to Israel. Pfizer rushed the vaccines over partly because Israel had reportedly paid $47 per vaccine, double than most countries and partly because it agreed to share statistical information on the vaccine rollout. The January 6th deal titled: Real-World Epidemiological Evidence Collaboration Agreement details the legal and logistical workings of the collaboration.


The redacted parts of the 14-page article appear to concern only the commercial and some operational details of the agreement.


Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu and Health Miniser Yuli Edelstein welcome Pfizer's Covid-19 vaccines to Israel. Photo: Courtesy Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu and Health Miniser Yuli Edelstein welcome Pfizer's Covid-19 vaccines to Israel. Photo: Courtesy


According to the agreement, the objective of the project is "to measure and analyze epidemiological data arising from the product rollout, to determine whether herd immunity is achieved after reaching a certain percentage of vaccination coverage in Israel."


The combination of a healthcare system that covers 100% of the citizens, a critical mass of medical data that is stored on computerized databases and the fact that Israel is essentially an ‘island state’ with sealed borders, has made it an excellent testing ground for the Covid-19 vaccine producers. The realization that every vaccine recipient can be monitored, with access to their entire medical history, encouraged Pfizer and Moderna to rush millions of doses to the country, even at the expense of other client countries.


In a statement delivered by Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyhau last week, he said that it was determined that Israel would serve as a worldwide case study for the rapid vaccination of an entire country and that it “will share with Pfizer and all humankind its statistical data that will help develop a strategy to vanquish Covid-19. We can do it because our health system is one of the most advanced in the world."


Netanyhau did not detail what data precisely Israel would share with Pfizer, but his statement raised concerns among privacy advocates regarding the medical confidentiality all Israeli health agencies are committed to. However, according to the agreement it seems that no deal was struck behind the citizens’ back in which medical information was exchanged for vaccines. A subsequent statement issued by the Ministry of Health stated that the data given to Pfizer would only include macro information of the type that is routinely provided to the public regarding the spread of the pandemic, and that indeed seems to be the case.


Under section 1.1 of Exhibit A, titled Epidemiological Data, the agreement states that: “Each data transfer will include, at a minimum, current counts of the following: Confirmed COVID-19 cases/week; Confirmed COVID-19 hospitalizations/week; Confirmed COVID-19 severe/ critical cases /week; Confirmed COVID-19 ventilator use/week; Confirmed COVID-19 deaths/week and Symptomatic cases/week." In addition, it says that: "Weekly numbers of vaccinees, as total and by age and other demographic subgroups, as well as the number of cases per week by age groups, and other demographic factors will be provided to Pfizer.”