COVID19: Republic delivers first 1,000 vaccines to Turkish Cypriots

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The first batch of Pfizer vaccines for the Turkish Cypriot community was delivered to health authorities across Cyprus’ dividing line in the Turkey-occupied north on Monday.

A total of 1,080 Pfizer-BioNTech vaccine doses were delivered as part of the total amount the Cyprus Republic ordered for the north.

Greek Cypriot co-chair of the Bicommunal Technical Committee on Health Leonidas Phylactou delivered the vaccines to his Turkish Cypriot counterpart Cenk Soydan at Nicosia’s Ayios Dhometios crossing point.

Health officials said that the 1,080 are for the first dose for the same amount of people in the north.

The second doses will be stored and delivered next month as there is no vehicle available to transport the vaccines at the very low temperature they need to be stored.

Pfizer’s COVID-19 vaccines need to be stored at -70 degree Celsius.

Phylactou said that the Republic had included the needs of the Turkish Cypriots in the vaccination planning for Cyprus.

The committee, he said, has carried out several processes to enable the first delivery of vaccines on Monday.

Soydan said that Turkish Cypriot authorities had requested 400,000 doses but there has not been a clear response as to the final number that will be delivered.

When placing Cyprus’ order for COVID-19 vaccines with the EU, which handles vaccine purchases and distribution for member states, the Health Ministry said it had asked for 1.2 million vaccines to also cover the needs of Turkish Cypriots.

Soydan said the Pfizer vaccines would be administered within the next five days.

The north kicked-off its vaccination program on Friday after receiving 20,000 doses of the Chinese Sinovac’s vaccines, sent from Turkey.

They have already started vaccinating health professionals and people over 65.

The process was launched with the inoculation of Turkish Cypriot leader Ersin Tater, the head of the ruling coalition Ersan Saner and health authorities chief Ali Pilli.

After receiving the first of his two doses of the vaccine Pilli, said the north’s vaccination program will continue with the inoculation of 5,000 health workers.

Following the inoculation of all health workers, those over 85 were next.

Pilli said 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.

Health authorities in the north are expecting another 500,000 vaccines from Turkey.

If these vaccines arrive as scheduled, authorities say that they will complete their vaccination program by 28 February.

The north is primarily using Sinovac, a vaccine yet to be approved by the EU, but reported to have an efficacy of 78% against coronavirus.