Genetically modified mice imported from abroad were an expensive tool needed to speed up research for Turkovac, Turkey’s first locally made vaccine against coronavirus. The vaccine, which is close to production, counted on donors who gave cash to advance the effort.
Professor Mustafa Çalış, the rector of Erciyes University where the vaccine is being developed, says that their work would be slower and inferior to others if it weren’t for donations of people of Kayseri, central Turkish province where the university is located. “Uncle Fevzi called me one month before his death from COVID-19 and asked me if we needed anything,” Çalış recalled in an interview with Ihlas News Agency (IHA) on Monday. He refers to Fevzi Mercan, a local who asked him if the TL 400,000 ($46,000) he had would be of any use to the university. “We were seeking to secure imports of genetically altered mice from the United States for vaccine trials when he called. I asked him if he wanted to donate it for the vaccine study, and he agreed. The money he donated partially covered the purchase of the mice,” he said.
Süleyman Çetinsaya, a Kayseri-born businessperson, also asked them if they needed any financial support for vaccine development. When the rector asked professor Aykut Özdarendeli, chief researcher in the project, if they needed anything, Özdarendeli asked for the purchase of a device and Çetinsaya immediately covered it. “With their contributions, we are in a better place in vaccine development,” Çalış said.
The scientists launched Phase 3 trials for Turkovac last month, and more than 846,000 people applied to volunteer for the last stage of the trials when only 40,800 people were needed. The vaccine is developed with the support of the Health Institutes of Turkey (TÜSEB), an umbrella body of health agencies controlled by the Ministry of Health, which oversees and assists in vaccine creation. It 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. Authorities plan to make it available for public use by the end of this year and hopes to export it to other countries.
Turkovac, previously known as ERUCOV-VAC before President Recep Tayyip Erdoğan renamed it, was developed in seven months by a team of scientists. It started its Phase 1 trials in Nov. 2020. Phase 2 trials began on Feb. 10, and as yet no side effects have been reported among the volunteers. It may also be used for a third dose as many people have already been inoculated with vaccines by China’s Sinovac and Germany’s Pfizer-BioNTech. The Sinovac vaccine is an inactive vaccine similar to Turkovac, while the Pfizer-BioNTech jab uses mRNA technology. Turkish scientists are also working on an innovative virus-like particle (VLP) vaccine, which is currently in Phase 2 trials.
Turkey administered 52.6 million vaccine doses since it started its inoculation campaign with health care workers in January 2021. Last week, it also started administering third or “booster” doses for people aged 50 and above, along with health care workers.
Though the vaccination campaign gained momentum last month with the arrival of more jabs from abroad, authorities strive to convince more to take their shots amid cases of vaccine hesitancy. Experts say relief from the pandemic is only possible by achieving mass immunity. Achieving a 70% rate in vaccination before autumn will help the country stave off a potential fourth wave of the pandemic. Autumn is a concerning time for pandemic as more people start spending time indoors. This was the case last year in the country, which was forced to introduce restrictions in November following a relative lull in the pandemic during the 2020 summer.
Currently, everyone at the age of 18 and above is eligible for vaccination, but authorities worry about low interest among people between 18 and 35. A report in the Sabah newspaper says that the government considers “affirmative action” for those who have both doses of the vaccine. Those who have not been vaccinated twice will be barred from attending certain events and from several venues, including football matches, cinemas and concerts.
Vaccination is vital for the country while the world is embattled with the delta variant. Coronavirus cases with delta variant were reported in 26 provinces and they account for 5% of daily cases, according to a report in Sabah.
Vaccination venues were diversified last month. Now, along with hospitals and clinics, people can get their vaccines almost everywhere. If they are in villages far from city centers, health care crews visit them at home or where they work. In cities, shopping malls and busy squares are dotted with vaccination stands staffed by nurses and doctors administering doses to passersby. Vaccination points were also set up in border crossings in four provinces, while 40 airports across the country offer vaccination for passengers. Vaccination spots are also established at major train stations and bus terminals.
Please click to read our informative text prepared pursuant to the Law on the Protection of Personal Data No. 6698 and to get information about the cookies used on our website in accordance with the relevant legislation.
6698 sayılı Kişisel Verilerin Korunması Kanunu uyarınca hazırlanmış aydınlatma metnimizi okumak ve sitemizde ilgili mevzuata uygun olarak kullanılan çerezlerle ilgili bilgi almak için lütfen tıklayınız.