The individual who was meant to be the first person to receive the country’s coronavirus vaccine at Sheba Medical Center was disqualified after he was found to have antibodies against the virus, the hospital confirmed.
Boaz Kolodner, 47, from Moshav Ganei Hadar, was one of three finalists to be injected with the vaccine developed by the Israel Institute for Biological Research, known as Brilife. But when the hospital ran a serological test on Kolodner on Thursday, doctors discovered that he had coronavirus and recovered without knowing it.
A second, younger volunteer has been selected, but Sheba could not reveal any additional information.
The first injections will be made on Sunday morning at both Sheba and Hadassah Ein Kerem in Jerusalem. Hadassah told the press on Friday that their first volunteer is a 34-year-old male from southern Israel.
The injections will be given at around the same time at both hospitals. The head of IIBR, Prof. Shmuel Shapira, and Defense Minister Benny Gantz, will attend the Sheba event and offer a briefing.
At Sheba, the first volunteer will stay overnight in the cardiology ward for monitoring. If he is found healthy, he will be released home. Then, by Tuesday or Wednesday, additional volunteers will be brought in for vaccination.
In total, some 80 people will take part in the Phase I human trial, which is expected to last at least a month or more.
Each volunteer will be monitored over the course of three weeks to determine if there are any side effects caused by the vaccine. Researchers will also examine whether volunteers develop antibodies to coronavirus, which leads to immunity.
When Phase I is completed, if successful, Phase II will commence, testing the vaccine on 960 healthy volunteers over the age of 18. Phase II is expected to begin in December at medical centers across the country. That phase is meant to complete safety tests and pinpoint the right doses, as well as to continue to gauge effectiveness.
If the first two phases are successful, a Phase III trial of 30,000 volunteers will begin next April or May for the final stage. Once completed, the vaccine can be approved, and the population can be vaccinated against the virus.
A spokesperson for Sheba said that IIBR is not vying for European or FDA approval at this stage.
IIBR’s vaccine candidate is based on a well-known method of vaccination, the institute has said. What is new is the use of a vesicular stomatitis virus (VSV) – a type of virus that does not cause diseases in humans. Through genetic engineering, proteins are attached to the VSV virus to form coronavirus “crowns” that are identified by the body as COVID-19. As a result, the body produces antibodies against it.
The vaccine has already been tested on pigs and found to be effective.
The name of Israel’s vaccine has meaning in Hebrew. The “bri” is the first part of the Hebrew word for health; the “il” stands for Israel and “life,” according to Shapira.