Turkey’s home-grown COVID vaccine project nears fruition

Turkey could have its own COVID-19 vaccine Turkovac available for use by the end of the year, according to the country’s Health Minister Fahrettin Koca.

An emergency use authorisation (EUA) application for the inactivated SARS-CoV-2 vaccine has been submitted to the Turkish Medicines and Medical Devices Agency (TITCK) on the back of preliminary data from ongoing phase 3 trials.

Turkey’s vaccination programme for far has relied heavily on another inactivated SARS-CoV-2 vaccine – CoronaVac developed by Chinese biotech Sinovac – as well as Pfizer and BioNTech’s mRNA-based shot Comirnaty and Russia’s adenovirus vector-based Sputnik V.

Koca said that the phase 3 programme is the first to be fully carried out by Turkey, according to a Reuters report. The Turkish government has also said it will make the shot available globally, and will donate 10 million vaccine doses via the COVAX facility for lower-income countries.

At last count, Turkey had delivered almost 120 million doses of COVID-19 vaccines, enough to cover almost 72% of its population, with rates running at more than 130,000 per day.

The country has reported 8.6 million cases of the infection, and around 76,000 deaths, and around 50 million people are now fully vaccinated out of a total population of 84 million.

Daily case numbers are approaching 30,000 at the moment, with the number of deaths hovering around the 200 per day mark, and like many other governments around the world Turkey is trying to encourage vaccination as widely as possible to guard against a fresh wave of infections.

Booster doses are already being offered to fully vaccinated healthcare workers in Turkey, said Foca, who also confirmed plans to include Merck & Co’s oral antiviral molnupiravir in the country’s treatment plans.

With Europe now the epicentre of the pandemic once again, the country has also offered to take COVID-19 patients if health services are overwhelmed, according to the World Health Organization’s regional director Hans Kluge.

Turkovac (formerly known as ERUCOV-VAC) was developed by the Health Institutes of Turkey and is in two phase 3 trials, one 40,800-subject study comparing the shot to CoronaVac in adults aged 18 to 55 and a second investigating booster doses.

Like CoronaVac, it is a two-dose vaccine, with each shot given 28 days apart in the primary course. The booster trial is looking at a third dose between three and six months later.

Image by Adri Marie from Pixabay 

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