The race for a COVID-19 vaccine is heating up, and countries are spending every resource available to secure enough doses for their people.
Foreign ministries across the globe are in talks with vaccine-producers, and health ministries are attempting to approve them for use. But Israel has gone a different way. Israel is reportedly using spies to test and secure vaccines. The country’s famed Mossad is reportedly buying Chinese vaccines, and testing them for safety. Espionage often turned the tide in major conflicts. Now, it is being used as a powerful tool during the pandemic.
Israel’s Mossad is a pioneer in the business, whose agents have pulled off some daring missions over the years. And now, it’s getting involved in Israel’s response to the pandemic, rather the hunt for a vaccine. Mossad reportedly brought China’s vaccine candidate to Israel in the last couple of weeks. The goal is to study it, test it for safety, and efficiency.
Why has Israel involved Mossad instead of the relevant ministries?
One reason could be the ongoing US-China conflict. Israel is a staunch ally of the United States. It would be bad optics for Israel to test out Chinese vaccines in public, considering the United States is making its own. Mossad is perfectly capable of secretly securing the vaccine from China, and also has the technology to test it out.
This is not the first time Mossad has been deployed during the pandemic. From February to May, Mossad’s chief led Israel’s efforts to acquire masks, ventilators and PPE kits. It has been speculated that Israel imported medical goods from Arab West-Asian nations, some of whom had not recognised Israel at that point, and had no trade relations with it.
Mossad was roped in for secret imports. Reports say that the agency bought around 4 million test kits. Prime Minister Netanyahu has been all praise for Mossad, publicly said that the agency’s expertise could be needed again.
Mossad’s involvement in pandemic control has been controversial. After all, spy agencies have no jurisdiction inside the country. Rights groups have opposed using intelligence agencies to contact-trace.
Whenever there is a global race, espionage is never far away. Earlier this year, the US accused Chinese hackers of trying to steal data from vaccine-maker Moderna. They were reportedly backed by the Chinese intelligence agencies. Two Chinese nationals were indicted, and the FBI was called in to investigate.
Russia has also been accused of trying to steal vaccine research. The UK, Canada and the United States jointly accused a hacking group – Cozy Bear beleived to be associated with Russian intelligence. Vaccine producers are seeking help from spy agencies in their own countries to stay alert to threats.