Turkey’s health minister declared a plan to begin using an experimental Chinese COVID-19 vaccine later this month with an increase in infections and deaths.
Fahrettin Koca had already stated a deal with China’s Sinovac Biotech for 50 million doses of CoronaVac that is now in late stage trials. In a statement late Wednesday, Koca related that the first lot of the vaccine would arrive in Turkey after Dec. 11.
The minister also stated that early use permission would be given after Turkish labs affirm that the shots are safe and after evaluation of initial results from the latest tests.
Koca also said: If developments continue positively as we expect, Turkey would be among the first countries in the world to begin vaccinations in the early phase.
In November, The Lancet issued a study about Sinovac’s vaccine candidate’s efficacy based on initial clinical tests. The study showed that the effectiveness was determined to be moderate and that the vaccine produced lower levels of antibodies than those found in recovered COVID-19 patients. The study also reported that the protective efficacy of CoronaVac remains to be determined.
Candidates from Pfizer-BioNTech and Moderna have related that they have efficacy rates for more than 90 percent. Based on limited clinical trials, the U.K.’s AstraZeneca have an efficacy rate of 70-90 percent.
The minister reported that the vaccination efforts would be starting in four stages. The first group includes health care workers, citizens above age 65, and people living in homes for the elderly, disabled, or other protective care homes. Then, it would be the essential workers and people above 50 with at least one chronic disease, and people younger than 50 with at least one chronic illness, young adults and other workers would be vaccinated, while the final phase would be for the rest of the population.
According to the health minister, Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdogan declared, on Monday, that the vaccine would be administered free of charge. Other COVID-19 vaccines would be sold at pharmacies.
Koca also related earlier this week: We will take delivery of at least 10 million doses of the vaccine in December and likely 20 million. Another 20 million doses in January and 10 million in February. It should be noted that Turkey’s population is more than 83 million. The CoronaVac that is a so-called inactivated vaccine would be provided in two doses per person.
Turkey has reported record fatalities for 10 consecutive days, with 193 new deaths Wednesday, bringing the total death toll in the country to 14,129. The daily number of infections has also reached a record high of 31,923, as Turkey continued reporting all positive cases last week after four months of only releasing the numbers of symptomatic patients. The new daily infection numbers put Turkey among the worst-hit in the world.