(VIN) Pfizer’s CEO Albert Bourla is reportedly set to make a visit to Israel on Sunday, 8 March. The visit could coincide with an announcement by Pfizer that it will locate a vaccine R&D facility in Israel – to come up with next-generation vaccines against the ever-mutating coronavirus.
Bourla last week described Israel as “the world’s lab” for the Pfizer vaccine “ because they are using only our vaccine at this state and they have vaccinated a very big part of their population, so we can study both economy and health indices.”
However, some leading Israeli scientists and diplomats have urged Bourla to postpone his high profile visit since it will occur just two weeks ahead of a hotly-contested Israeli national election campaign. The concern is that Prime Minister Netanyahu will utilize Bourla’s trip to showcase the highly successful vaccination campaign which has seen over half of Israelis get their first dose of vaccine and led to a dramatic decline in COVID cases among those who have received both doses of the vaccine, which includes over 80% of the population above 60.
“It is understandable why the chairman and CEO of Pfizer, Dr. Albert Bourla wants to visit Israel. The country – both the government and the scientific and medical communities – will enthusiastically welcome him. Many are looking forward to exploring the possibility of R&D projects and a Pfizer production line in Israel,” wrote Alon Pinkas, former Israeli Consul General in New York, in an op-ed in the left-wing Ha’aretz national daily.
But, Pinkas added, “It defies logic why Bourla, the CEO of a world-leading biopharmaceutical company worth nearly $190 billion, would visit Israel on March 8, 15 days before the Knesset election. To put it bluntly, Pfizer will become a political prop, and the visit will be politicized with high-octane intensity. Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu no longer has Donald Trump as some brother-in-arms campaign asset, so why not use Pfizer?”
Some Israelis have criticized Netanyahu for even entering the deal with Pfizer for what is a vaccine only approved under emergency FDA regulations in return for providing data regarding the effectiveness of the vaccine.
Others who are opposed to the vaccines have cited the Nuremberg Code, an ethical code requiring explicit voluntary consent from patients involved in human experimentation, claiming that Netanyahu had not told Israelis that they were really part of a large experiment. These Israelis have even gone as far as petitioning the International Criminal Court (ICC) claiming that the Israeli government has violated the Nuremberg Code by administering the vaccines despite the fact that their long-term effect is not yet known.
It remains to be seen whether Bourla’s visit will serve to promote Netanyahu’s agenda or whether it will be seen as gratitude to Israelis for their unwitting participating in Pfizer’s successful mass trial of its vaccine.