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Covid-19: Turkey to be prioritised in receiving vaccine, official says

BioNTech founder says vaccine could be given to Turkish citizens in the first three months of 2021
Vials carrying a potential vaccine against coronavirus (Reuters)
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Ankara

Turkey will be among the first countries to receive the experimental vaccine that is proven to be 90 percent effective in preventing Covid-19 because it has contributed to its testing, a senior Turkish official has told Middle East Eye.

German pharmaceutical company BioNTech and American firm Pfizer, joint developers of the vaccine, had 700 volunteers in Turkey join the human trials in the third phase in September and October.

The volunteers were chosen by Istanbul University's medical schools from among people who had not contracted the virus.

In a joint statement, Pfizer and BioNTech announced on Monday that their vaccine was more than 90 percent effective when tried on 43,538 participants around the globe.

'Turkey will have a priority in receiving the doses once the vaccine is approved for the end user'

- Turkish official

Turkey was one of six countries to participate, alongside the US, Germany, Brazil, Argentina and South Africa.

“Submission for emergency use authorisation (EUA) to the US Food and Drug Administration (FDA) planned for soon after the required safety milestone is achieved, which is currently expected to occur in the third week of November,” the statement read.

“Turkey will have a priority in receiving the doses once the vaccine is approved for the end user,” the Turkish official told MEE, speaking on condition of anonymity.

“We will also continue to test other vaccines produced by other countries, such as China."

Turkish Health Minister Fahrettin Koca said earlier this year that Turkey was hoping to get five million doses of vaccine, either from China or the Germany, as Turkish citizens have joined the trials of both efforts.

BioNTech has a special place in Turkey as its founders are Turkish-Germans from humble backgrounds. Chief Executive Ugur Sahin and his wife, Ozlem Tureci, BioNTech's chief medical officer, have risen to stardom in Turkey as their company’s value has increased five-fold, reaching $21bn in a year.

'We would like to save enough doses for Turkey if the Turkish health ministry tells us what amount and when needed'

- Ugur Sahin, vaccine developer

Sahin, in an interview with a Turkish news agency, said that the company was planning to ship two million doses to Europe and the United States in January.

“We will produce 1.5bn doses before the end of 2021 if everything goes according to the plan,” he said.

Sahin also added that the company would also send a shipment to Turkey in the first three months of 2021.

“We would like to save enough doses for Turkey if the Turkish health ministry tells us what amount and when needed,” he said, according to a transcript.

“We will need to hold talks on this and sign a protocol. Then we could have an opportunity to bring them to Turkey in January, February and March.”