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First shipment of Sinovac’s COVID-19 vaccine arrives in Turkey

CoronaVac vaccine NELSON ALMEIDA / AFP

The first batch of an experimental COVID-19 vaccine developed by Chinese biopharmaceutical company Sinovac arrived in Turkey on Wednesday after a two-week delay.

Turkey was to have received the first batch of the CoronaVac vaccine on Dec. 11 and then on Dec. 28, but Turkish Health Minister Fahrettin Koca announced on Dec. 27 that due to a COVID-19 case in Beijing customs, the shipment of the vaccine would be delayed for one or two days.

A Turkish Airlines (THY) plane carrying 3 million doses of the vaccine in 17 containers landed in Ankara in the early hours of Wednesday. From there, the vaccines were taken to health ministry warehouses.

Koca announced on Twitter that inoculations would begin after a 14-day examination of the vaccine by the Turkish Pharmaceuticals and Medical Devices Agency, a regulatory agency that oversees safety in medicines, health products, cosmetics and personal care products.

Despite widespread concerns about the safety of CoronaVAC, Turkey has ordered 50 million doses of the vaccine from the Chinese company. The vaccine has an efficacy rate of 91.25 percent based on early results of late-stage trials conducted in Turkey, according to a statement from Minister Koca last week.

Turkey will also procure 4.5 million doses of the vaccine developed by BioNTech and Pifzer, with an option to procure 30 million more doses later.

The Turkish government, which has been criticized for failing to manage the COVID-19 pandemic well and allowing the pandemic get out of control by not reporting the real number of infected people, is now also receiving criticism for lagging behind other countries in beginning COVID-19 inoculations.

In the meantime, the country reported 15,805 new coronavirus cases on Dec. 29, while the death toll over the past 24 hours was 253.

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