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Locally produced vaccine trials to conclude soon: COVID-19 board member

Locally produced vaccine trials to conclude soon: COVID-19 board member

“We want to keep all the schools open until the end of this year,” professor Ilhami Çelik, a member of Turkey’s Coronavirus Scientific Advisory Board, said in a statement on Sunday, emphasizing the country’s vaccination efforts and informing the public that the locally developed Turkovac vaccine will conclude its Phase 3 trials soon.

Speaking during an event in central Anatolian Kayseri province, Çelik said that emergency use approval will be granted to Turkovac depending on the results of its Phase 3 trials.

“This is an obligation during such times. You cannot wait 15 years for a vaccine during a pandemic,” he said.

“Therefore, safety is very important in Phases 1 and 2. First, the vaccines are given to a small group then to thousands of people, enabling us to see its adverse effects and recognize its safety. We are doing this quickly,” Çelik added.

Turkovac, previously known as ERUCOV-VAC before President Recep Tayyip Erdoğan renamed it, was developed in seven months by a team of scientists led by professor Aykut Özdarendeli. It started its Phase 1 trials in November 2020. Phase 2 trials began on Feb. 10, and as yet no side effects have been reported among volunteers.

Turkovac was developed by scientists at Kayseri’s Erciyes University and started its Phase 3 human trials in June. The inactive vaccine is now at the emergency-use approval phase, and Health Minister Fahrettin Koca announced that its mass production will likely begin later this month pending approval.

As Turkovac is in its final rounds of testing, the vaccine’s developers also launched a comparison study between it and China’s CoronaVac in Istanbul and the capital, Ankara. The study will examine the efficacy level of both vaccines after their third doses. Volunteers without a history of COVID-19, between ages of 18 and 59 and who have received two doses of CoronaVac have been admitted to the study of 220 people. Researchers aim to see which jab is safer and more efficient for the third dose. Volunteers will be monitored for their antibody levels and possible side effects in a double-blind study carried out over 168 days. The study runs parallel with another study where volunteers are divided into two groups: those injected with CoronaVac and those injected with Turkovac for first doses.