Turkish Cypriot health authorities have received the first 20,000 COVID-19 vaccines from the Chinese Pharmaceutical Sinovac, through Turkey but won’t accept EU vaccines from the Cyprus government.
Announcing the arrival of the vaccines on Thursday, the head of Turkish Cypriot health services Ali Pilli, said the north’s vaccination program will begin on Friday with the inoculation of 5,000 health workers, regardless of where they are stationed.
In comments to Turkish Cypriot online media outlet HaberKibris, Pilli said that following the inoculation of all health workers, they will then move on to vaccinating people aged over 85, working their way down the age ladder.
The north’s vaccination program is to start from the eldest working its way down to the youngest.
According to data given by Pilli, there are 331,000 people in the age group of 0 to 59, 29,000 aged 60 to 70, 15,000 between 71 and 80, 5,000 over 80, and another 873 people who are over 90.
The first phase of the north’s vaccination program is expected to be completed within 15 days, said Pilli.
“We are expecting another 500,000 vaccines from Turkey. If these vaccines arrive as scheduled, then we could complete our vaccination program by 28 February,” said Pilli.
Turkish Cypriot authorities and scientists have placed their money on COVID-19 vaccines from China.
The north will be primarily using vaccines made by Chinese pharmaceutical Sinovac, a vaccine yet to be approved by the EU, but has been reported to have an efficacy of 78% against the coronavirus.
It will also receive a batch of vaccines from the EU, through the Republic of Cyprus.
Pilli had earlier said that Turkish Cypriots expect a batch of 400,000 doses from the European Union through the Republic of Cyprus.
President Nicos Anastasiades confirmed last week that his government is arranging to cover the entire population of Cyprus, Greek Cypriots, and Turkish Cypriots.
However, Turkish Cypriot leader Ersin Tatar complicated matters when he told UN chief of mission, Elizabeth Spehar, that Turkish Cypriot authorities would not accept vaccines from the EU through the ‘Greek Cypriot administration’, as he called the Republic.
He argued that vaccines should come directly from the European Union.
Tatar’s comments caused a fierce reaction from the majority of the opposition parties in the north, with Tufan Erhurman, the leader of the main opposition Turkish Republican Party (CTP) accusing Tatar of sabotaging the north’s vaccination program.
“Our health and economy are in desperate need of the vaccine, but Mr Tatar says, that if they do not come directly from the EU, we will not accept it.
“This vaccine is not for the sake of the south or the EU, it is the right of our people to health. No to political games,” Erhurman said.
The north is heading for an early ‘parliamentary’ election sometime between April and October, following a failure of political parties to elect a leader of the Turkish Cypriot assembly.