The emergency authorization application for the domestically developed COVID-19 vaccine Turkovac has been submitted to the Turkish Medicines and Medical Devices Agency (TITCK), Health Minister Fahrettin Koca announced Thursday.
Koca was speaking in the capital Ankara during the Planning and Budget Commission meeting at Parliament.
The vaccine, previously known as ERUCOV-VAC, is an inactive COVID-19 vaccine. A similar jab, CoronaVac developed by Chinese firm Sinovac, had formed the backbone of the country's vaccination program before messenger RNA (mRNA) vaccines were available in greater numbers.
The Phase 3 trials of the vaccine are almost complete, a member of the Coronavirus Scientific Advisory Board recently said.
In a separate statement, Koca said Wednesday that Turkey will donate 10 million vaccine doses through the COVAX facility, a mechanism to get vaccines to underdeveloped countries
The health minister and World Health Organization's Regional Director Hans Kluge also spoke via telephone Wednesday.
"We can only manage this pandemic with solidarity. As we face a difficult winter, I am grateful to @drfahrettinkoca & Turkey for the generous offer to receive #COVID19 patients if needed, to support European countries with overwhelmed health systems & ICUs," Kluge wrote on Twitter.
"Turkey has set a positive example of global solidarity, providing 160 countries and 29 international organizations with #COVID19 supplies, as well as donating over 2 million doses of vaccine to 11 countries since the pandemic began. My thanks to Dr. Koca and Turkey," he added.
Koca also said on Twitter that the COVID-19 pandemic has lasted longer than expected and has demoralized and demotivated people, yet, the reality still remains with high infection and death rates.
"But with the high number of cases and deaths, the truth is in front of us, again and again, every day. We cannot ignore COVID-19," Koca added, urging a determined fight against the pandemic.
Health care workers, who have received two doses of an inactivated vaccine and later a booster shot of messenger RNA (mRNA) or an inactivated vaccine, will be able to get another shot, Koca said in a statement after a Coronavirus Scientific Advisory Board meeting.
During the meeting, the health minister said treatments used in epidemic management have been reassessed, and discussions on the use of antiviral drug Favipiravir were addressed.
"The data collected by our ministry was discussed in our scientific committee meeting, and it was clearly demonstrated that the drug does not have any significant side effects," he said.
He also underlined the decision was made to add the antiviral drug Molnupiravir to the treatment guide.
Koca said Tuesday that Turkey does not intend to implement any further lockdowns or closures to manage the pandemic's reach; instead, it is placing "great importance on individual precautions ... particularly vaccinations," as he answered questions from the press after the Cabinet meeting at the Presidential Complex.
"In the new period in Turkey, we do not plan to manage the pandemic with closures. In the new period, we attach great importance to personal precautions and especially vaccination," Koca said and added: "We think that it is very important for everyone to be vaccinated."
The latest weekly figures from the Health Ministry show that the number of coronavirus cases per every 100,000 people increased in Turkey’s most populated city Istanbul. The capital Ankara as well as the western province of Izmir – the third-largest in the country, on the other hand, showed a decline.
Case numbers for the period between Nov. 6 and Nov. 12 show Istanbul had an average of 308 cases per every 100,000 people. This number was around 241 in Ankara and about 68 in Izmir. Tunceli, Osmaniye, Çanakkale, Kırklareli, Balıkesir, Bilecik, Hatay, Tekirdağ, Adana and Bartın were the top 10 provinces showing the sharpest rises in weekly cases.
According to official figures released on Wednesday, Turkey has administered over 119.72 million doses of COVID-19 vaccines since it launched an immunization drive in January.
More than 56.1 million people have gotten a first vaccine dose and over 50.1 million have been fully vaccinated, the Health Ministry said.
Turkey has also given third booster shots to more than 12 million people.
The ministry recorded 27,592 new coronavirus cases, 175 deaths and 28,285 recoveries over the past day.
As many as 364,351 virus tests were done in the past 24 hours, the data showed.
Since December 2019, the pandemic has claimed over 5.17 million lives in at least 192 countries and regions, with more than 259 million cases reported worldwide, according to United States-based Johns Hopkins University.