Turkey launched mass production of its domestically developed COVID-19 vaccine, Turkovac, on Wednesday after receiving emergency approval following volunteer studies that showed its effectiveness.
Turkey sprang into action after the first case of coronavirus was reported in March 2020 and launched studies to develop its first vaccine to fight the outbreak.
Among the vaccine studies supported by the Presidency of Turkish Health Institutes (TÜSEB) and the Scientific and Technological Research Council of Turkey (TÜBITAK), the inactive vaccine developed by Erciyes University showed the fastest progress.
While the development process of Turkovac started in April last year, the preclinical stages, where animal trials were conducted, were successfully concluded in October 2020.
Phase 1 studies for the vaccine began the following month and it was administered to 44 volunteers. The phase 2 studies were launched on February 10, 2021, with 250 volunteers. With both phases showing positive data, the authorities moved to phase 3 of the development process.
As part of the phase 3 studies, the first dose of the vaccine was administered on June 22, 2021, in a program in which President Recep Tayyip Erdoğan participated and announced the name of the vaccine – Turkovac.
Thousands of volunteers who had not been infected with COVID-19 or previously vaccinated received Turkovac in the Phase 3 studies.
In October of this year, Turkovac was given as a booster. Volunteers who had previously received two doses of China’s Sinovac vaccine were given either Turkovac or Sinovac, depending on personal preference.
Health Minister Fahrettin Koca said on Wednesday that Turkovac had received emergency use authorization,
Koca was speaking at the vaccine production plant, as he said public hospitals would start using it after about 10 days.
The emergency authorization request for the domestically developed COVID-19 vaccine, Turkovac, was submitted to the Turkish Medicines and Medical Devices Agency (TITCK) last month.
Since the start of the vaccine’s development, Erdoğan has pledged to make it available worldwide, saying it will benefit everyone.
“Our COVID-19 vaccine, Turkovac, which has reached the production and use stage by receiving the necessary approvals, is a symbol of our efforts to protect our nation against the pandemic in the most effective way,” said Erdoğan said in a video on Tuesday. message to the laboratory in the southeastern province of Şanlıurfa, where research and production of vaccines are carried out.
Experts said trial results are promising and that the vaccine, in booster form, at least, is helping boost antibodies.
Professor Ateş Kara, a member of the Ministry of Health’s coronavirus scientific advisory board, said earlier this month that preliminary data from national trials showed that none of those vaccinated with Turkovac had serious symptoms. of COVID-19 and that the vaccine, furthermore, rapidly increased levels of antibodies in the body needed to fight the infection when given as a booster.
Kara, who also heads the Turkish Vaccine Institute, told Anadolu Agency (AA) on Sunday that clinical trial data was rather positive and that a comparative study with CoronaVac, an inactive vaccine like Turkovac currently used in Turkey, also showed promising results.
“No one vaccinated with Turkovac so far had a severe form of COVID-19 requiring hospitalization or intensive care. The same applies to a comparative study with CoronaVac. It demonstrates the effectiveness of the vaccine. All data is presented to the committees evaluating the emergency use approval made earlier for Turkovac,” he said.
Turkey is pursuing an ambitious vaccination program against the coronavirus, which has claimed more than 78,000 lives in the country since March 2020. The daily number of cases recently fell below 20,000, while daily deaths fell below of 200. The Department of Health is offering a Pfizer -Vaccine BioNTech in addition to CoronaVac to every eligible citizen.
Although the country managed to secure sufficient vaccine shipments for its population this summer, Turkovac plans to be administered as boosters. The Department of Health is already leading a campaign to get more people to volunteer for trials of the vaccine by introducing it as the third dose to more than 51 million people, who have received their two doses of other vaccines.
Kara said they were looking to reach around 4,000 people by testing the side effects of Turkovac. “We have an advantage in inactive vaccines. They are more prevalent in the world and have been provided to some 3.5 billion people worldwide, and we have more data on their side effects and the prevalence of those side effects. So we just compare them to the possible side effects of Turkovac and so far we haven’t had any serious side effects,” he said.
Scientists are also carrying out mass production tests of Turkovac and “stability” tests to determine an expiration date and to see if the vaccine provides enough antigens needed to trigger an immune response to the deadly infection. The current expiration date is three months, but it could be extended up to six months depending on stability test results and can be extended up to two years, Kara said.
“We saw a rapid rise in antibody levels after the booster shots of the inactive and messenger RNA (mRNA) vaccines were given. We have now seen that Turkovac has the same effect as a booster shot,” he added.