Phase 3 trials for Turkey’s first domestic coronavirus vaccine are currently under place around the country.
Experts say the results are promising and the vaccine, in the form of a booster shot at least, helps increase antibodies.
Professor Ateş Kara, a member of the Health Ministry’s Coronavirus Scientific Advisory Board, says preliminary data from nationwide trials demonstrated that none of the people vaccinated with Turkovac had a severe case of COVID-19 and the vaccine, in addition, rapidly increased antibody levels in the body necessary to fight the infection when administered as a booster shot. Kara, who also heads the Turkish Vaccine Institute, told Anadolu Agency (AA) on Sunday that clinical trial data was rather positive and a comparative study with CoronaVac, a vaccine inactive like Turkovac and currently in use in Turkey, also produced promising results.
“No individuals vaccinated with Turkovac had a severe form of COVID-19 requiring hospitalization or intensive care so far. The same applies to a comparative study with CoronaVac. It demonstrates the efficacy the vaccine has. All the data is presented to the committees that are assessing emergency use approval made earlier for Turkovac,” he said.
Turkey is pursuing an ambitious vaccination program against coronavirus, which has killed more than 78,000 people in the country since March 2020. The daily number of cases recently dropped below 20,000 while the daily fatalities decreased to below 200.
The Health Ministry offers a Pfizer-BioNTech vaccine in addition to CoronaVac to every eligible citizen. Though the country managed to secure shipments of vaccines sufficient for its population this summer, Turkovac is planning to be offered as booster shots.
The Health Ministry already runs a campaign to get more people to volunteer for the vaccine’s trials by presenting it as the third dose for more than 51 million people who received their two doses of other vaccines.
Kara said they sought to reach about 4,000 people in testing the side effects of Turkovac. “We have an advantage in inactive vaccines. They are more prevalent in the world and so far, were provided to some 3.5 billion people in the world and we have more data about their side effects and the prevalence of those side effects. Thus, we simply compare them with Turkovac’s possible side effects and so far, we had no serious side effects,” he said.
Scientists are also running tests for mass production of Turkovac and “stability” tests to determine an expiration date and to see whether the vaccine provides sufficient antigens required for prompting an immune response to the deadly infection. The current expiration date is three months, but it could be extended to six months based on the results, Kara said.
“We have seen a rapid leap in antibody levels after the booster shots from inactive and messenger RNA (mRNA) vaccines are administered. We now have seen that Turkovac has the same effect in booster shot form,” he added.