Turkey readies launch of local “Turkovac” coronavirus vaccine

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by Leo Kendrick

As Turkey’s vaccination drive continues apace, Health Minister Fahrettin Koca has announced that a locally-developed vaccine, known as “Turkovac”, will soon be submitted for emergency approval.

If the vaccine is granted emergency approval, it is likely to enter mass production within the month of October, according to the Health Minister. Approving vaccines is the responsibility of the Turkish Medicine and Medical Devices Agency (TİTCK). To date, two coronavirus vaccines have received emergency approval from TİTCK, the Sinovac and Sputnik jabs. BionTech, another widely used vaccine in Turkey, received approval from the World Health Organization (WHO), European Medical Agency (EMA), and the US Food and Drug Administration (FDA) prior to its use in Turkey, meaning that TİTCK approval was not required. For emergency approval, vaccines must pass through a clinical study phase. Following emergency approval, a vaccine then proceeds to a formal authorization phase.

The Turkovac vaccine, developed by Erciyes University and Directorate of Turkish Health Institutes (TÜSEB), is an “inactived” type vaccine, similar to the Sinovac jab also used widely in Turkey. The BionTech vaccine is an “mRNA” type.

Clinical trials for the Turkovac vaccine are currently ongoing at five locations in Turkey. One of them, the Kayseri City Hospital, has vaccinated 36 volunteers to date, while 650 have applied to receive the jab. No serious side effects have been reported among the 36 volunteers so far.

Health Minister Fahrettin Koca

In his announcement, the Health Minister specified that emergency approval does not mean full authorization, and that approval can be rescinded if the vaccine is shown to have a negative “benefit/risk balance” in follow-up trials and data monitoring. 

Turkey recent passed 100 million administered vaccine doses. 82.05% of eligible citizens have received a first vaccine dose, while 63.8% are full vaccinated, according to Health Ministry figures. Turkish schools opened for face-to-face classes Monday, prompting concerns of a surge in cases. According to an announcement by the Health Minister yesterday (9 September), 77% of teachers in Turkey are fully vaccinated, while 90% have received at least a first dose. On Tuesday, Minister Koca announced the detection of the first two cases of the “Mu” variant in the country. 

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