Health Minister Fahrettin Koca has announced that Turkey signed a contract with Pfizer and BioNTech for 4.5 million doses of its COVID-19 vaccine to be delivered by the end of March, with the first shipment of 550,000 doses expected to arrive by the end of 2020 or in early January at the latest.
The minister stated on his official Twitter account on Friday that Turkey would also have the option of procuring 30 million more doses of the vaccine, according to the agreement.
“[BioNtech CEO] Professor Uğur Şahin made a great effort to eliminate the obstacles to the signing of the deal. Turkey will never forget him for this. I thank him one more time on behalf of our nation,” Koca tweeted.
Despite widespread concerns about its safety, Turkey also had agreed to procure 50 million doses of the experimental COVID-19 vaccine developed by Chinese biopharmaceutical company Sinovac, which are expected to arrive by the end of February.
Koca said during a Thursday news conference accompanied by members of Turkey’s scientific board that CoronaVac is currently 91.25 percent effective and that its efficacy would increase over time.
Professor Serhat Ünal, an infectious disease expert and a member of the scientific board, said the finding was based on early results of late-stage trials in Turkey involving 7,371 volunteers.
The minister added that the first shipment of 3 million doses of CoronaVac would be dispatched to Turkey on Sunday night and arrive on Monday.
The Chinese vaccines were initially expected to arrive after Dec. 11, but issues with import permits caused the delay, Koca underlined.
Turkey has one of the worst infection rates in the world, with a weekly average of about 22,000 confirmed daily cases, according to Health Ministry data. The country’s coronavirus death toll increased by 256 to 19.371 in the last 24 hours.