Turkey signed an agreement with Pfizer/BioNTech to purchase 90 million doses of the coronavirus vaccine developed by the company, with an option for 30 million additional doses.
Health Minister Fahrettin Koca announced Tuesday that Turkey will receive 90 million doses of the Pfizer-BioNTech COVD-19 vaccine in the next two months to facilitate the country's fight against the pandemic.
Speaking in a press conference, Koca said that BioNTech co-founder Uğur Şahin would participate in this week's Coronavirus Scientific Advisory Board meeting and provide details about the delivery process.
Koca noted that the ministry expects the Turkish population to have developed public immunity against the virus before September with the help of the incoming 90 million doses, which are expected to be delivered in June and July. The health minister added that they had invited Şahin to Turkey at the beginning of June.
Koca stated that Sinovac, the Beijing-based firm behind CoronaVac, had granted Turkey authorization to produce the vaccine but that production would not start for a few months. The health minister noted that 10 million CoronaVac vaccines are expected to be delivered to Turkey within the week.
Turkey started administering CoronaVac jabs to health care personnel in January and the president himself was vaccinated with the inactive vaccine. Recently, authorities also started giving the Pfizer-BioNTech vaccine to citizens who opt for it. Media reports also said that authorities were in talks to acquire the Moderna vaccine.
The country once ranked sixth in terms of vaccination in the world but the drive has somewhat slowed down. Experts tie it to challenges in vaccine deliveries, something the health minister recently has partly acknowledged. But authorities are also concerned that anti-vaxxers and vaccine skeptics may affect the inoculation drive.
Work is underway on locally made vaccines, but most are still in the early stages of development and scientists hope to achieve results this year. Vaccines being developed in the country range from an inactive vaccine to an intra-nasal spray and a virus-like particle (VLP) vaccine. President Recep Tayyip Erdoğan told reporters that universities and pharmaceutical companies are working hard and he expected “mass production” would start in September or October “based on what they pledged.”
Meanwhile, the country has also approved the use of Russia’s Sputnik V vaccine.