President Frank-Walter Steinmeier presented the Order of Merit to Ozlem Tureci and Ugur Sahin, whose families were migrants of Turkish origin, at a ceremony held at the Bellevue Palace, which was also attended by Chancellor Angela Merkel.
Germany’s president has conferred Turkish scientists Ozlem Tureci and Ugur Sahin with the country’s highest award for inventing the world’s first effective vaccine against Covid-19.
Frank-Walter Steinmeier presented the Order of Merit to Tureci and Sahin at a ceremony held at the Bellevue Palace, which was also attended by Chancellor Angela Merkel.
“On behalf of our country, I would like to thank you both for your outstanding scientific achievements, and I wish that your further major research plans would bring about similar groundbreaking successes for you and for all of us,” Steinmeier said at the ceremony on Friday.
The inventors of #BioNTech #COVID vaccine, #Dr. Ozlem Turerci and #Dr. Ugur Sahin, receive German’s highest honors presented by German President #Frank-Walter Steinmeier.— Hasan Karaburk (@DrKaraburk) March 19, 2021
Humbleness in personalities across the board, simplicity in decor and environment are clearly visible. pic.twitter.com/SFCy9eZqlN
He underlined that Tureci and her husband Sahin’s pioneering work in the field of mRNA technologies, and their development of the coronavirus vaccine in less than a year, made a decisive contribution to containing the pandemic.
“Your groundbreaking discovery is saving human lives, it is securing the necessities of life, ensuring our social, economic and cultural survival. With every vaccinated person we can take a small step towards normalisation, a step towards the life we miss and the people we love,” he said.
The Great Cross with Star of the Order of Merit, which was given to the Turkish-German scientist couple, is one of the country’s most prominent honours to pay tribute to individuals for their great services to the nation.
Both Tureci and Sahin were born to immigrant parents from Turkey who moved to Germany in the 1960s, and after studying medicine at university, they built successful careers in the fields of cancer immunology, molecular biology, and mRNA vaccine technology.
The pharmaceutical company BioNTech, which the couple founded in 2008, managed to develop the world’s first effective coronavirus vaccine together with its US partner Pfizer.
READ MORE: Latest developments on Covid-19
Ruling CDU leader praises Tureci and Sahin
Armin Laschet, the leader of Germany’s governing party Christian Democratic Union (CDU), praised the scientists for their great achievements in a message he posted on Twitter.
Condemning far-right propaganda against the country’s immigrant population, Laschet underlined the valuable contributions of immigrants to the country.
“Sahin’s father was seen as a ‘guest worker’ by many, they wanted to send him back to Turkey. It’s good that we’re a country of immigration, it’s good that he stayed here, and his son made a career by studying here,” he said.
Laudatio auf Özlem Türeci u Ugur Sahin.Gegen Menschen wie sie hetzen Rechtspopulisten Tag für Tag.Sahins Vater galt als „Gastarbeiter“,den viele zurück in die Türkei schicken wollten. Gut, dass wir Einwanderungsland sind und dass er hier blieb und sein Sohn durch Bildung aufstieg pic.twitter.com/lZirfUi4PV— Armin Laschet (@ArminLaschet) March 18, 2021
European Commission President Ursula von der Leyen also congratulated the couple for receiving the Order of Merit of Germany, and said they have become role models for many people.
Europa kann sich glücklich schätzen,— Ursula von der Leyen (@vonderleyen) March 19, 2021
im Kampf gegen das Virus von Özlem Türecis und Uğur Şahins Weitblick zu profitieren.
Beide sind für viele Menschen zum Vorbild geworden.
Herzlichen Glückwunsch zur Verleihung des Bundesverdienstkreuzes! pic.twitter.com/zVX2PScu29
“Europe can consider itself lucky, as it greatly benefited from the vision of Ozlem Tureci and Ugur Sahin in fight against the virus,” she said on Twitter.