More than 846 000 volunteers applied to participate in Phase 3 trials of the domestic vaccine against COVID-19, called Turkovac, Turkish Minister of Health Fahrettin Koca announced on Twitter.
Phase 3 trials started Tuesday for Turkovac, which is being developed by a group of scientists from Erciyes University in the central province of Kayseri and the Health Institutes of Turkey, an umbrella body of health agencies controlled by the Ministry of Health, which oversees and assists in vaccine creation. The vaccine is among 18 others developed against the deadly disease and is expected to be the first to be available if trials succeed and the Health Ministry approves it. The ministry added a new feature to its e-Nabız (e-Pulse) app, which allows users to track their health, for vaccine volunteers. Volunteers are being chosen among those aged 18 to 55, not infected with COVID-19, not injected with other coronavirus vaccines and not diagnosed with any chronic diseases affecting immunity.
Turkovac reportedly proved its safety and efficacy in two earlier phases and Koca said at the introduction ceremony of the vaccine Tuesday that the formulation would not change for the vaccine he dubbed the “pride of our nation.” The country plans to make it available for public use by the end of this year and eyes exports to other countries.
Turkovac, previously known as ERUCOV-VAC before President Recep Tayyip Erdoğan renamed it Tuesday, was developed in seven months by a team of scientists led by professor Aykut Özdarendeli. It started its Phase I trials in November 2020. Phase II trials began on Feb. 10 and as yet no side effects have been reported among volunteers.
It may also be used for a third dose as a large number of people have already been inoculated with vaccines by China’s Sinovac and Germany’s Pfizer-BioNTech. Sinovac’s CoronaVac is an inactive vaccine like Turkovac, while the Pfizer-BioNTech jab uses messenger RNA (mRNA) technology. Russia’s adenoviral-based Sputnik V vaccine is also expected to be included in the country’s vaccine inventory soon.
Turkish scientists are also working on an innovative virus-like particle (VLP) vaccine.
Ankara has received 24.6 million doses of the Pfizer-BioNTech vaccine so far, including more than 20 million in June. Authorities want to secure delivery of over 6 million more doses by the end of this month. Overall, 120 million doses are expected to be delivered by September. So far, the country has received 34.5 million doses of CoronaVac and a batch of 400,000 doses of Sputnik V, according to media reports.
Turkey has administered more than 44 million doses during its inoculation campaign that kicked off in January 2021. After combating vaccine hesitancy and delays in vaccine imports, it went on to break daily vaccination records, surpassing 1 million per day over the past two weeks. Between May 30 and June 6, a total of 1.8 million people were vaccinated across the country, while this number reached 7.7 million on June 14-20.