ANKARA (Reuters) - Turkey will sign a contract within days to buy at least 20 million doses of a COVID-19 candidate vaccine from China's Sinovac Biotech, the health minister was cited as saying, adding that Ankara was also in talks to buy doses of Pfizer and BioNTech's vaccine.
"We will be able to procure at least 10 million doses of the Chinese vaccine in December. We want to increase this number. It will be just as much in January, too," Health Minister Fahrettin Koca was quoted as saying by the state-run Anadolu news agency.
"This figure can easily double, probably. A contract will be signed on this in one or two days," he said at his ministry's budget presentation in parliament on Wednesday.
Turkey would become the second buyer of the Chinese vaccine after Brazil.
Preliminary trial results have shown that Sinovac's <SVA.O> experimental COVID-19 vaccine CoronaVac triggered a quick immune response, but the level of antibodies produced was lower than in people who have recovered from the virus.
CoronaVac and four other experimental vaccines developed in China are in late-stage trials to determine their effectiveness.
The report follows news this month from Pfizer Inc <PFE.N> and BioNTech <22UAy.DE> and from Moderna <MRNA.O>, as well as from Russia, of experimental vaccines that have been more than 90% effective based on interim data from large, late-stage trials.
Pfizer and BioNTech may secure emergency U.S. and European authorization for their COVID-19 vaccine next month after final trial results showed it had a 95% success rate and no serious side effects, the drugmakers said on Wednesday.
Koca said Turkey was in talks to buy their vaccine as well, once it obtained its license.
"If so, the number that can be given to Turkey is 1 million. We have talks right now to gradually go up to 25 million within the year starting from January," Koca was quoted as saying.
While some countries including Turkey have been conducting tests for Sinovac's experimental vaccine, Brazil is currently the only country which has agreed to receive doses of it. The Sao Paulo state will start importing 46 million doses this week.
In a statement on Thursday, Turkish Airlines <THYAO.IS> said its freight carrier Turkish Cargo had delivered a shipment of vaccines from Beijing to Sao Paolo.
(Reporting by Can Sezer and Tuvan Gumrukcu; Editing by Kim Coghill and Hugh Lawson)