Previously Undisclosed COVID Vaccine Agreements Between Pfizer and Israel Released

Previously Undisclosed COVID Vaccine Agreements Between Pfizer and Israel Released
A medic prepares a dose of the Pfizer-BioNTech COVID-19 vaccine in Netanya, Israel, on Jan. 5, 2022. (Jack Guez/AFP via Getty Images)
Lia Onely

Previously undisclosed agreements regarding the sale of COVID-19 vaccines between Pfizer and the Israeli Ministry of Health were revealed to the public for the first time on Feb. 20.

The documents include the Confidential Disclosure Agreement that was signed on July 12, 2020; the Binding Term Sheet signed on Nov. 13, 2020; the Manufacturing and Supply (M&S) agreement signed on Dec. 1, 2020; three amendments to the M&S agreement dated February and April 2021, and a Supplementary agreement signed on March 11, 2021.

The documents were obtained and released by Gal Gur, an Israeli lawyer, on Twitter.

Significant parts of the documents are redacted and some sections are completely redacted such as “Indemnification” and “Insurance and Liability,” “Quality and Checks,” and Attachments C, D, and E that have to do with Delivery Documentation, Specifications and Labelling, and Packaging Specifications in the M&S agreement.
Until the publication of these documents, the only document the Israeli Ministry of Health (MOH) had released to the public from its agreement with Pfizer to purchase COVID-19 vaccines was “The Real-World Epidemiological Evidence Collaboration Agreement” that was dated Jan. 6, 2021.

An unsigned copy of the Evidence Collaboration Agreement was initially published after a nonprofit expressed concerns to Israeli officials over privacy protection, since the agreement gave Pfizer the ability to access personal information on Israeli citizens.

Significant parts of this agreement were redacted as well, including dates and page numbers.

A Freedom of Information application filed in April 2022 sought to clarify the degree of authenticity and validity of the Pfizer–MOH Evidence Collaboration Agreement. That request was filed by Joseph Zernik, CEO of Human Rights Alert, a nongovernment organization that works to increase transparency in government authorities.

Zernik took the MOH to court in September 2022 after it didn’t provide the requested information.

In a later court hearing on Feb. 16, Zernik learned that another lawyer, David Pikz, had already obtained the other agreements but they had not been made public. Pikz obtained the documents in January 2022 after taking the MOH to court. The documents Pikz obtained were also heavily redacted.

Legitimacy of Redactions

The MOH argued to the court in Zernik’s case that the decisions around the legitimacy of the redactions had already been decided by the court in Pikz’s case.

According to the MOH’s response to Zernik’s appeal dated October 2022, the MOH argued that they had presented the court with explanations for the redactions in the Evidence Collaboration Agreement during Pikz’s appeal. They argued that the court had been “of the opinion that the redactions in this agreement are justified.”

Pikz explained in court in February 2022 that he asked for the unredacted agreements “both as a personal matter and as a public matter,” according to the summary document reviewed by The Epoch Times. Pikz said it was important information for the public because COVID-19 policies had pushed “widespread vaccination in the public.”

“I want to make sure that the policy that the Ministry of Health adopts, is not based on personal considerations but on public considerations,” Pikz said in court. “I want to know who signed it so that there is not a conflict of interest.”

Pikz had also obtained the Evidence Collaboration Agreement in a slightly less redacted form and the additional agreements signed by the MOH representatives with significant parts redacted. After receiving the documents he agreed for the appeal to be dismissed.

During the February hearing in Zernik’s case, the MOH tried to claim in court that there is no need to further discuss the redactions since it was examined during Pikz’s appeal. The MOH’s lawyer Achva Berman argued that even though there was no ruling made in Pikz’s appeal, the same balance of interests versus public interest had already been examined.

Yet the judge, Yoram Noam, said that no judgment had been made on the matter of the redactions, according to the summary of the hearing.

“It’s not the case that the court discussed this issue and decided that it was convinced that a proper balance was achieved,” said Gur to The Epoch Times about Pikz’s case.

Meaning, one private person appealed in court for the documents and the removal of the redactions, she said. The MOH argued that this one appeal—which no one had heard about—had “basically exhausted the public interest” for anyone to reexamine the redactions.

Gur reached out to Pikz for the documents he had obtained. She said that Pikz told her that after he reached a dead end with the MOH during his appeal that he had agreed to its dismissal in case a ruling against him would limit future appeals.

So the MOH’s claim in court that there was no need to examine the redactions again was not true, said Gur.

Pikz confirmed to the Epoch Times that he provided the documents to Gur but declined further comment.

Gur wondered why the MOH didn’t provide the same documents to Zernik in 2022 when he took them to court, given the agency had already provided them to Pikz earlier that year.

Gur also said that if one would search the MOH website for Pfizer agreements with the MOH, one would only find the redacted Evidence Collaboration Agreement the MOH published in January 2021. The less redacted copy provided to Pikz and later Zernik is not available. Neither are the additional agreements that had been released to Pikz.

So, it was provided to the public, and the MOH argued in court that the public interest was examined in court, and yet “the public does not know about the documents,” said Gur.

The MOH did not respond to a request for comment.

‘Serious Failure’

Gur also said that during Pikz’s appeal, Judge Dana Cohen-Lekach had asked Pfizer’s stance on removing the redactions.

Pfizer’s lawyer in Israel, Ron Peleg, wrote to the court that the MOH was familiar with Pfizer’s considerations objecting to providing the requested information. The MOH had reflected Pfizer’s objections during Pikz’s appeal and the MOH had the means to do so in the future as well, said Peleg in the letter to the court dated Dec. 20, 2021. The letter was reviewed by The Epoch Times.

Peleg also said in section 10.1 of the M&S agreement between Pfizer and the MOH, the MOH had committed to “make reasonable efforts” to protect the confidential information in the agreements that were signed. He said Pfizer does not expect the MOH to “represent it in every legal procedure related to the agreement,” but in this case, the company’s expectation “is much more modest.”

The letter said that the MOH is required to maintain the confidentiality of the information included in the agreements between the parties—“whether the confidentiality of the information stems from the interests of the Ministry of Health or from the interests of Pfizer.”

“This is something that stunned me,” said Gur, adding that this regulator is supposed to supervise Pfizer and represent the public’s interest. However, they are fighting against the public’s interest in court in order to protect Pfizer’s interest.

This is a “serious failure,” she said.

Gur has been following the ongoing cases about the Pfizer agreements for more than a year. After she obtained the documents from Pikz, she released them on Twitter before even reviewing them.

“This information was hidden from the public yet belongs to the public,” she said. “So, first of all, I needed to put it in the public domain.”

Gur was also concerned something might happen to the documents. And “the wisdom of the masses can contribute a lot here,” she said.