Germany's immigrants save the world from Covid! Scientists Özlem Türeci and Ugur Sahin discover vaccine

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Two married scientists of Turkish descent, Özlem Türeci and Ugur Sahin, and an Austrian oncologist Christoph Huber, seem to be at the threshold of saving the world from the deadly Covid-19. More than a million people globally have died and economies around the world have been left reeling from the financial hit because ‘lockdown’ has meant shut down from businesses and jobs.

And yet this couple Türeci and Sahin who are children of Turkish Gastarbeiter or “guest workers” who came to Germany in the late 1960s and their company BioNTech have partnered with the US Pharma-giant Pfizer and found a vaccine that has proven 90% effective.

The impact that this vaccine will have cannot be underestimated. Today every front page newspaper has hailed this news as nothing less than a miracle.

I find it particularly comforting that much of the media has spoken warmly about the immigrant back story of Türeci and Sahin, particularly at a time in which ‘immigrants’ , particularly those with darker skins fleeing wars risking their lives and their children’s lives crossing deadly waters, are too often despised.

For many years Turkish Gastarbeiter or “guest workers” were treated dreadfully by Germany, not even allowing their children to have German citizenship until recently. The German Prime Minister Angela Merkel put that right and also took the bravest decision of any Western leader in modern history by allowing nearly a million Syrians access to Germany after Syria collapsed due to civil war.

I have no doubt that Germany will also reap the benefits from that generation in years to come. The immigrant mentality that is forced to uproot and start life again in a strange land often has a fighting entrepreneurial spirit that if harnessed and nurtured will, like we are seeing in BioTech, benefit everyone.

Congratulations Türeci and Sahin, you did your parents proud.

Simon Woolley

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