Turkey in talks to buy more COVID-19 vaccines, says health minister

Turkey in talks to buy more COVID-19 vaccines, says health minister

Turkey in talks to buy more COVID-19 vaccines, says health minister

Talks are underway to increase the amount of COVID-19 vaccines to be delivered to Turkey, Health Minister Fahrettin Koca has said, adding that the country is also looking at alternatives to secure injections.

Turkey has already signed a deal to buy at least 50 million doses of an experimental vaccine being developed by China’s Sinovac.

Koca previously said that the country was also in touch to procure the coronavirus jab from Pzifer/BioNTech.

Officials, on the other hand, are considering the Russian vaccine as another potential option if it proves safe.

“I believe the Chinese vaccine will be delivered to Turkey in the next couple of days. The first batch of the injection will comprise 3 million doses,” the minister told daily Hürriyet.

He added that the vaccination drive is likely to start at the end of December or in the first week of January 2021.

The vaccine being developed by Oxford University/AstraZeneca may also be available in Turkey, said Professor Tevfik Özlü from the Health Ministry’s Science Board.

“As far as I know, a preliminary agreement for the procurement of Oxford’s vaccine was signed recently,” Özlü told private broadcaster CNN Türk on Dec. 17.

“Turkey, thus, will also have access to this injection if studies show it is safe,” he added, without providing other details.

One expert recently estimated that up to 60 million and 65 million people could be vaccinated by the end June 2021.

In the interview with Hürriyet, Koca also dismissed claims that Pfizer’s vaccine will be administered to “elites,” while the rest of the public will get the Chinese vaccine.

“Such a discrimination is out of question. People get vaccinated based on certain criteria, such as risks, age and health conditions, not based on their class,” he told the daily.

The minister also refuted the speculations suggesting that the vaccine had already arrived in Turkey and the jab is being administered to people close to the government. He reiterated that the potential vaccines will not be possibly applied until local laboratories and institutions, which will examine the jabs for at least 14 days, approve them.

The coronavirus vaccines will be administered to the public free of charge.

“Phase 3 studies of an inactive [Sinovac] and an mRNA [Pfizer] vaccine are ongoing. Based on the available data, there are no significant side effects in the phase 3 studies conducted in our country,” Koca said in a statement released after the Science Board meeting on Dec. 16.

Turkey is also working to develop its own COVID-19 vaccine.

“Our promising domestic vaccine studies will play a role in resolving the problem in the medium and long term. Phase 1 clinical trial of an inactive vaccine has already come to an end and is being prepared for phase 2 studies,” the minister added.

Turkey has stepped up its vaccine production ability, with three Turkish firms boasting the capacity to produce 160 million doses of vaccines, Industry and Technology Minister Mustafa Varank said on Dec. 17.

“Four Turkish-made COVID-19 candidate vaccines have completed animal trials successfully,” Varank told an online medicine and vaccine conference.