Chinese COVID-19 vaccine to head out to Turkey on Sunday – Health Minister

The first shipment of the Chinese-made Sinovac coronavirus vaccine will leave for Turkey on Sunday night and arrive on Monday, Turkish Health Minister Fahrettin Koca told reporters following Thursday’s coronavirus scientific advisory board meeting.

Late-stage trials for the vaccine carried out in Turkey have proven to be 91.25 percent effective, Turkish researchers announced in the same press briefing, Reuters reported. Brazilian trials showed more than 50 percent efficacy earlier in the week.

The first batch of Sinovac vaccines will include three million doses, Koca said. Healthcare workers will have first priority, and the ministry has prepared a four-tier strategy for mass deployment of the vaccine.

Turkey was set to receive 50 million doses of the vaccine by Dec. 11, but shipment was delayed. Koca said the 50 million doses were set to be delivered in full by late February.

Koca also said the new coronavirus strain that appeared to have emerged in Britain was actually present among patients since September, adding that the U.K. was “trying to explain away the uncontrollable rise in cases with a mutation.”

In April, when Turkey was recording upwards of 120 daily deaths, the figures the ministry made public ranged between 2,000 and 5,000 daily patients, which Koca explained in July was different from the number of cases and didn’t include asymptomatic infections. The presence of a mutated variation of the COVID-19 coronavirus in Turkey was never made public.

Turkey is planning to sign an agreement with Pfizer and BioNTech in the next few days for another 4.5 million doses of their next-generation vaccine, developed by Turkish-German couple Dr Özlem Türeci and Dr Uğur Şahin, to be delivered by the end of March, Koca said. The country may purchase a further 30 million doses later on, he said.