ANKARA (Reuters) – Turkey aims to procure 105 million doses of COVID-19 vaccines by the end of April, its health minister said on Friday, adding Ankara would also receive some 800,000 doses of the shots developed by Pfizer and BioNTech this month.
Ankara started a nationwide vaccination programme last month that has so far administered a first dose to some 5.5 million people. More than a million people have received the second dose of the vaccine developed by China’s Sinovac Biotech Ltd, according to health ministry data.
Speaking to the Sabah newspaper, Health Minister Fahrettin Koca said Turkey planned to procure a further 105 million doses by the end of April, but did not specify which vaccines would be obtained. He said Turks would be given the option to choose between the Sinovac and BioNTech shots once both are available.
“By the end of April, a procurement of 105 million vaccine doses is being planned,” Koca said. “It is expected that around 800,000 doses of (BioNTech) vaccines will arrive this month,” he was quoted as saying.
Koca said Turkey was preparing to administer 35 million shots in March.
“Citizens whose vaccination turn arrives will be presented this option. Their confirmations will be received. This vaccine will also especially be offered to the group of 60 year-olds and younger,” he said, referring to BioNTech’s shots.
Turkey has ordered 50 million doses of Sinovac’s Coronavac and has been in talks to buy shots developed by other companies. Ankara has so far received 13 million doses of Coronavac, but no BioNTech shots.
Turkey has reported more than 2.6 million cases and nearly 28,000 deaths from COVID-19 since March. In December, it imposed weekend lockdowns, nightly curfews and other curbs in the face of rising cases.
President Tayyip Erdogan said on Wednesday Turkey will begin a gradual return to “normal life” in March on a province-by-province basis.
(Reporting by Tuvan Gumrukcu; Editing by Ece Toksabay and)