Turkey launched mass production of its domestically developed COVID-19 vaccine Turkovac on Wednesday after receiving emergency use approval following studies on volunteers that demonstrated its efficacy.
Turkey quickly took action once the country’s first coronavirus case was reported in March 2020 and launched studies to develop its first vaccine to combat the outbreak.
Among the vaccine studies supported by the Presidency of Turkish Health Institutes (TUSEB) and the Scientific and Technological Research Council of Turkey (TUBITAK), the inactive vaccine developed by Erciyes University showed the fastest progress.
While the development process for Turkovac began in April 2020, preclinical studies where animal trials were held were successfully concluded in October that year.
Phase 1 studies for the vaccine kicked off the following month and it was administered to 44 volunteers. Phase 2 studies were launched on Feb. 10, 2021 with 250 volunteers. With both phases showing positive data, authorities launched 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 participated in by President Recep Tayyip Erdogan, who announced the name of the vaccine as Turkovac.
Thousands of volunteers who had not been infected with COVID-19 or got vaccinated before were given Turkovac as part of the Phase 3 studies.
In October this year, Turkovac was administered as a booster shot. Volunteers who previously received two doses of the Chinese Sinovac vaccine were given Turkovac or Sinovac depending on their personal preference.
Mass production started
On Nov. 25, Health Minister Fahrettin Koca said authorities had applied for emergency use approval of Turkovac, and it was granted the following month by the Turkish Medicines and Medical Devices Agency.
Speaking Wednesday at the vaccine production facility in southeastern Turkey’s Sanliurfa province, Koca noted that mass production of Turkovac had been launched.
With this latest development, Turkey has become the ninth country in the world that is capable of producing its own COVID-19 vaccine.
Common use of Turkovac is expected to start before the end of this year. With its domestic vaccine, Turkey aims to end its dependency on foreign actors with regards to the procurement of COVID-19 vaccines and to help distribute vaccines to countries that have not yet had access to them.
President Erdogan reiterated that the vaccine will be distributed to poor countries free of charge.