BioNTech, Uğur Şahin and Özlem Türeci, who developed a coronavirus vaccine

Turkey negotiates purchasing 25 million doses of Pfizer vaccine

Pfizer has developed the coronavirus vaccine with the German biotechnology company BioNTech, founded by Turkish migrants.

Turkey is in negotiations to purchase one million doses of Pfizer’s new coronavirus vaccine by the end of this year, and 25 million doses in 2021, Turkey’s Health Minister Fahrettin Koca announced on Wednesday while continues the increase in infections in the Eurasian country, already exceeding the barrier of 4,000 daily positives.

“If the vaccine is licensed, Turkey could acquire one million doses by the end of the year. And we are in negotiations to gradually go up to 25 million doses within a year starting from January,” said Koca after Pfizer announced on Wednesday that final test results for its COVID-19 pandemic vaccine show 95% effectiveness from data collected over two months.

The US pharmaceutical company hopes to be able to initially produce 50 million doses of its vaccine before the end of 2020, enough to protect 25 million people (since two doses per person are required); but by 2021 it claims to be in a position to produce up to 1.3 billion units.

A vaccine developed by children of Turkish migrants

Pfizer has developed the vaccine in collaboration with the German biotechnology company BioNTech, founded by a Turkish couple, children of emigrants to Germany: Uğur Şahin is the son of a Turkish immigrant (in German Gastarbeiter, or guest worker) who in the 1960s came to work at the Ford factory in Cologne. Born in Turkey, at age 4 Şahin left with his mother to Germany to join his father.

In 2008 he founded BioNTech together with his wife and also a company director, Özlem Türeci, whom he met while studying medicine at the University of Saarland. Türeci was born in Germany but is the daughter of a surgeon from Istanbul who decades ago moved to that country for work reasons.

Turkey could apply 24-hour curfews

On the other hand, the Turkish Minister of Health said that Turkey would be about to sign another agreement in a matter of days to acquire in December about 10 million doses of the Chinese vaccine, and another 10 million doses in January, although “the amount could be double”, he added.

Regarding the development of the Turkish coronavirus vaccine, Koca confirmed that human trials have already started for one of the 16 currently under development by Turkish scientists, and that there could be one ready by April.

While waiting for the arrival of a vaccine, cases of coronavirus continue to increase in Turkey, where on Wednesday the barrier of 4,000 infections was exceeded with 4,215 new positives and 116 deaths in the last 24 hours. Authorities warn that if the new measures introduced this week to curb infections do not take effect, there could be more severe restrictions, including 24-hour curfews on weekends.