On Tuesday, State Comptroller Matanyahu Englman stated that the country’s bid of producing its own vaccine for COVID-19 had been a flop and had cost hundreds of millions of shekels in taxpayers’ money.
The research lab of the Defense Ministry was behind the project and the state comptroller accused it of misleading the officials regarding the costs and progress of the said vaccine.
In the initial stages of the pandemic, Israel had touted the Brilife vaccine as its own answer to a global need for dealing with the deadly virus.
The Institute for Biological Research of the Defense Ministry in Ness Ziona had continued to work on the project, even after Israel had managed to obtain vaccine supplies from Moderna, Pfizer and other pharma companies.
It was in July 2022 that the project had finally been scrapped and not even a single shot had been produced for use. Englman said that the project had been a failure.
According to the report, public money of about NIS 230 million had been invested in the vaccine project. Yoav Gallant, the Defense Minister, defended the vaccine project, even though he was not minister during it.
The minister said that the idea of producing a vaccine at that time had been quite reasonable. As for the Defense Ministry, is also said that they had obtained some valuable results, even if there was no vaccine.
Englman said that the biological institute had misled everyone in terms of the costs of the project and progress.
He said that even if it was acceptable during the initial emergency period, the conduct was against the rules of proper practice later on.
He criticized Prof. Shmuel Shapira, the former chief of the institute, particularly for sending the letter to Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu that had convinced him into greenlighting the project.
The report discovered that Shapira’s prediction of quick development of a vaccine did not align with the capabilities of the institute.
Initially, the institute’s estimate had shown that producing the vaccine would take 11 months, but this had been extended to 26 months later.
Likewise, the initial cost had been estimated to be around NIS 63 million, but it had been increased to NIS 1.4 billion. In December 2022, Shapira has resigned from the position of head of the institute.
The report discovered that there had not been proper oversight from the Defense Ministry where the development process is concerned.
In addition, the own guidelines of the institute had not been followed in the development process and no progress milestones had been established for the different stages.
Furthermore, Englman also asserted that the Health Ministry should also have been included in a national project that had the goal of developing a vaccine.
The recommendations of the comptroller included assessing if the biological research institute could make any real contributions in the future if there was another pandemic.
According to Gallant, when the project had first been authorized back in February 2020 by Netanyahu, it had made sense because the virus had been spreading quickly.