Delayed COVID-19 vaccine shipment from China arrives in Ankara

The COVID-19 vaccine shipment from China arrived in Ankara on Dec. 30, even though it was due to arrive on Dec. 11. The three-million doses will be tested by the state, a 14-day process, before administrations start within the pre-determined priority schedule.

A cooler carrying the COVID-19 vaccine from China is seen being loaded off of a Turkish Airlines plane on Dec. 30.

Duvar English

Turkey received its first shipment of three million doses of COVID-19 vaccines from China's Sinovac early on Dec. 30, initially set to arrive on Dec. 11.

The first batch of vaccines was loaded from airplanes onto trucks at Ankara's Esenboğa Airport before being taken to the storage facilities of the health ministry.

"The plane carrying our vaccines reached Esenboğa Airport. The 14-day testing of the vaccines will start immediately at Turkey Medicine and Medical Devices Institution," Health Minister Fahrettin Koca said on Twitter.

Ankara will start administering the vaccines within the pre-determined priority schedule after the testing is done, the minister added.

Turkey plans first doses for health workers and those older than 65, the ministry has said, followed by those older than 50 and suffering at least one chronic illness, in addition to those in specific sectors or high-risk environments.

The third group will include young adults and sectors not included in prior groups. A fourth group covers all the rest not listed.

Last week, Turkish researchers said the interim analysis showed the vaccine was 91.25% effective but the trial data, based on 29 infections, was seen as too limited for final approvals.

Boxes carrying the vaccine are being carried away from the plane that delivered them to Ankara on Dec. 30.

This week, two Turkish doctors told Reuters that at least a couple more weeks were probably needed for the Sinovac trial results to prove decisive since the sample size needed to grow.

Sinovac is seeking to consolidate data from global trials in countries such as Brazil, Chile, Indonesia and Turkey.

Separately, Turkey has agreed with Pfizer and BioNTech to supply 4.5 million doses of their vaccine, while working to develop its own at home. It also aims to produce Russia's Sputnik V COVID-19 vaccine domestically.

Turkey has reported more than 2.1 million COVID-19 cases since March, while more than 20,000 people have died.

A recent surge in new cases, which placed the country among those with the highest number of daily cases for several weeks, led the government to impose weekend lockdowns and weekday curfews. Daily cases have since come down to around 15,000.