UPDATE 2-Erdogan says Turkey expects more COVID-19 vaccines soon

(Adds comments from the Minister of Health)

ISTANBUL, April 30 (Reuters) – Turkey currently has enough doses of the COVID-19 vaccine and more injections will arrive soon from Russia and China, President Tayyip Erdogan said on Friday.

Speaking two days after his health minister warned that vaccines would become more scarce in the next two months, Erdogan said Turkey expected to receive a “serious” amount of doses from Moscow and Beijing.

Turkey has so far used vaccines developed by Chinese companies Sinovac Biotech and Pfizer / BioNTech. Almost 14 million people, or 16% of the population, have received at least one vaccine and another 9 million have been fully immunized.

“I do not accept that we have problems with purchasing vaccines,” Erdogan said.

“With the talks we are currently having with Russia, the Sputnik V vaccine is on its way,” he said, adding that he would speak to Russian President Vladimir Putin about the purchase if necessary.

Erdogan also said he will discuss the vaccine supply during the first half of May with Chinese President Xi Jinping and that more doses will also be delivered by BioNTech and Pfizer. “God willing, I believe it will be a wonderful situation.”

Health Minister Fahrettin Koca said on Wednesday Turkey had signed a deal for 50 million doses of Sputnik V which would start arriving in May and help address a short-term supply drop.

Turkish medical authorities said on Friday they had granted emergency use authorization for Sputnik V.

The Russian Direct Investment Fund (RDIF), responsible for marketing Sputnik V, said a Turkish company would also produce the bullet at its factories.

Later on Friday, Koca said Turkey would receive 1 million doses of the Pfizer / BioNTech vaccine in May and that there were no issues with the option to purchase an additional 30 million in June.

He said Turkey currently had a stockpile of 6 million Sinovac and BioNTech vaccines, adding that the Sputnik V vaccine would start being administered “as soon as possible”.

Turkish state broadcaster TRT Haber reported on Friday that Koca and Foreign Minister Mevlut Cavusoglu would visit Russia on May 12 to discuss vaccines and tourism.

Russia is Turkey’s biggest source of foreign visitors, with around 6 million Russians visiting each year before the pandemic.

Moscow said earlier in April that it had restricted flights to and from Turkey until June 1 due to an increase in COVID-19 infections.

Turkey’s tourism revenue fell 40% and foreign visitor arrivals fell 54% in the first quarter, data showed Friday. (Reporting by Tuvan Gumrukcu; Additional reporting by Ali Kucukgocmen; Writing by Dominic Evans; Editing by Ece Toksabay and David Clarke)

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