Turkey seeks access to more doses of BioNTech vaccine
The minister held a videoconference with Professor Uğur Şahin, CEO and co-founder of BioNTech, to explore the prospects.
“At the meeting, we discussed how we can increase the number of vaccine doses allocated to us. As the new opportunities of production come into play, the [vaccine] capacity allocated to Turkey will increase,” Koca said on Twitter on Jan. 7.
Koca noted that he also discussed the latest planning on the arrival of the BioNTech vaccine to Turkey with Şahin and his team.
In December 2020, the minister announced that Turkey would purchase up to 30 million doses of the vaccine developed by BioNTech and that 4.5 million doses of the vaccine could be delivered by the end of March 2021 under the deal struck with the Germany-based company.
Turkey also planned to receive a total of 50 million doses of China’s Sinovac vaccine.
In a statement released after a Health Ministry Science Board meeting on Jan. 7, Koca said negotiations for adenovirus-based vaccines developed in Russia and the U.K. were also ongoing.
The first batch of 3 million doses of the Chinese injection was already delivered to Turkey late December 2020.
The samples from the injections are currently being tested at local laboratories.
The minister said the vaccine was sufficiently safe and effective according to the results of the research and studies that Turkish scientists conducted.
The Urgent Use Approval process, which will be granted once the necessary tests are completed, has been started accordingly, he added.
Over 10,000 volunteers have received 17,700 doses of the vaccine so far, and the results are still being observed, Koca said.
He noted that it was found out as a result of phase 1 and phase 2 studies that the vaccine was safe to be applied to the elderly, people who are 60 or above, who were not included in the phase 3 studies.
The Chinese-developed vaccine showed at least 78 percent effectiveness in clinical trials in Brazil, Koca said in the statement.
The board discussed the vaccination plans, the minister added in the statement.
As the dispatches of the vaccines are received, citizens will be vaccinated according to the risk order determined by the Science Board, Koca added.
The vaccination will consist of two doses, with the second dose to be applied 28 days after the first.
The inoculation will start with health workers and the most vulnerable.
Koca also held a video conference on Jan. 7, with Hans Kluge, the World Health Organization’s (WHO) European regional chief.
Kluge thanked Turkey for following its coronavirus recommendations, the Health Ministry said.
The WHO official also congratulated Turkey as the country increased the scopes of vaccine studies, rapid COVID-19 diagnostic kits, and genome sequencing studies.
During the meeting, Kluge and Koca discussed rising COVID-19 cases in Europe, mutations, the current situation in Turkey and vaccine studies.
Turkey’s tally of infections has topped 2.29 million, with the death toll from the virus surpassing 22,000.