Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdoğan on Monday announced that Turkey, which has been criticized for lagging behind other countries in COVID-19 vaccinations, will begin inoculations this week, on Thursday or Friday.
“An initial 3 million doses of vaccine [developed by a Chinese biotechnology company] have arrived in Turkey. We are also engaged in talks to purchase the [Pfizer/BioNTech] vaccine. As soon as safety tests have been completed, we will begin vaccinations in line with the priority list previously determined. God willing, this campaign will start on Thursday or Friday,” said Erdoğan.
His remarks came following a Cabinet meeting at the presidential palace in Ankara on Monday evening.
The first batch of CoronaVAC, developed by China’s Sinovac, arrived in Turkey on Dec. 30 after a two-week delay. Despite widespread concerns about the safety of CoronaVAC, Turkey has ordered 50 million doses of the vaccine from the Chinese company.
Turkey also signed a contract with US pharma giant Pfizer and German-based biotechnology company BioNTech for 4.5 million doses of their COVID-19 vaccine to be delivered by the end of March.
BioNTech in cooperation with 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.
Meanwhile, people will be asked to sign a consent form that includes information about the possible risks before being vaccinated, according to a report in the Hürriyet daily on Tuesday.
Turkey requires no consent forms for the 13 vaccines that are routinely administered in the country.
Healthcare professionals, people over the age of 65, security officials, teachers and nursing home staff will be among the first groups of people to be vaccinated.
Turkey, which is among the hardest-hit countries in the world by the coronavirus pandemic, on Monday reported 10,220 new cases and 174 deaths over the past 24 hours. The country’s total coronavirus death toll currently stands at 22,981.
On Monday Erdoğan also said Turkey would gradually eliminate restrictions introduced to contain the spread of the coronavirus as the number of daily cases in the country is falling.
Last month Turkey was reporting around 30,000 new infections daily, but the number of infections has been on a downward trend for several weeks.
The Turkish government re-introduced weekend lockdowns as well as nighttime curfews amid a spike in infections and deaths in December. It has avoided a full lockdown since the beginning of the pandemic to keep the country’s beleaguered economy running.