JERUSALEM – Israel began human trials for its own coronavirus vaccine as the Jewish state’s second lockdown comes to a gradual end.
Two volunteers in separate hospitals – one in Tel Aviv and another in Jerusalem – have started the trials. If the two, Segev Harel and Aner Ottolenghi, feel in good health in the next two days, another 80 people will join the first phase of the trial.
According to officials, each volunteer will get either a dose of the vaccine or a placebo and will be sent home, where they will be monitored for three weeks for any possible side effects or whether they develop antibodies.
Harel said he is very proud to be part of such an important national mission and said he is not nervous.
If the first phase is successful, the second phase is scheduled for December and will include nearly 1,000 volunteers. A final phase will be open to 30,000 volunteers and will begin in April 2021.
Segev Harel at Sheba Medical Center in Tel Aviv.Israel’s Ministry of Defense
Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu and Defense Minister Benny Gantz visited the Sheba Medical Center in Tel Aviv, where the first vaccine was administered.
“There is a cause for a measure of cautious optimism today,” Gantz said. “Optimism, because I think excellent work is being done by our top scientists across the board, all of whom are giving their very best and this is cause for optimism.”
He said it will take time to track and process the data and draw conclusions. He asked for patience.
“I see the light at the end of the tunnel,” Netanyahu said. “I see the vaccines in the state of Israel. In this means or another, a vaccine developed here or abroad we will bring enough vaccines to the Israeli citizens and we will break free from this pandemic.”
The commercial name of the vaccine is “BriLife.” The first part of the name, “Bri”, refers to the Hebrew word for health, “briut,” the second part, “il” alludes to Israel and “life” speaks to the importance of the vaccine.
According to the Israel Institute for Biological Research, large-scale production of the vaccine has been implemented. To date, the institute has produced more than 25,000 vaccine doses.
“The work of all the hidden heroes in the institute and the hospitals has been poured into a little bottle which has the potential to bring a life-saving vaccine to the citizens of the state of Israel,” Dr. Shmuel Yitzhaki, head of the Biology Division at the IIBR told Fox News.
Officials said that, if all goes well, the vaccine could be ready for the general population as early as summer 2021.
Meanwhile, Israel opened elementary schools Sunday, as a second six-week nationwide lockdown comes to a gradual end.
Israel’s Health Ministry has recorded over 314,000 cases of the coronavirus and 2,541 deaths.