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Turkey in talks with BioNTech to produce COVID-19 vaccine, Erdoğan says

Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdoğan AFP

Turkish President and Justice and Development Party (AKP) leader Recep Tayyip Erdoğan has said the Scientific and Technological Research Council of Turkey (TÜBİTAK) is in talks with the German-based BioNTech for the production of the company’s coronavirus vaccine in Turkey.

Erdoğan said TÜBİTAK president Hasan Mandal was discussing with BioNTech CEO Uğur Şahin the prospects of producing the company’s coronavirus vaccine in Turkey.

“The schedule [of vaccine production] will soon be clear, and the necessary steps will be taken,” Erdoğan told reporters following Friday prayers.

BioNTech in cooperation with US pharma giant Pfizer developed a coronavirus vaccine with an efficacy rate of 95 percent. The vaccine was first approved in the UK on Dec. 8 for emergency use, with the US, Canada and European Union following soon after. All have begun their own vaccination drives.

On Thursday the World Health Organization (WHO) also approved the Pfizer/BioNTech vaccine for emergency use, making it the first coronavirus vaccine approved by the WHO so far.

The Turkish government, which has been criticized for failing to competently manage the COVID-19 pandemic 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.

Despite widespread concerns about the safety of CoronaVAC, an experimental  coronavirus vaccine developed by Chinese biotechnology company Sinovac, Turkey has ordered 50 million doses of the vaccine. 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 Health Minister Fahrettin Koca last week. Three million doses of the vaccine arrived in Turkey earlier this week.

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