As deaths rise, Turkey could have Chinese Covid-19 vaccine before January

Health minister says the vaccine will need another two weeks of testing and analysis

FILE PHOTO: A social distancing sign is seen at the entrance of the main shopping and pedestrian street of Istiklal?during a nation-wide weekend curfew which was imposed to prevent the spread of the coronavirus disease (COVID-19), in Istanbul, Turkey December 5, 2020. REUTERS/Murad Sezer/File Photo
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With Turkey’s daily coronavirus deaths rising to a record 203 on Monday, the government reportedly said it could start administering China's Sinovac Covid-19 vaccine by the end of the month.

Health Minister Fahrettin Koca on Tuesday said that analysis for domestic licensing was now complete.

Turkey recorded 32,137 new coronavirus cases, including asymptomatic ones, in the 24 hours to Tuesday evening. For four months, Ankara reported only daily symptomatic cases but has reported all cases since November 25. Historical data for all cases and the cumulative case total are still not available.

Turkey was on lockdown at the weekend to combat the recent surge in daily deaths and new infections. On Friday, Turkey had 32,736 new cases, the highest number since the beginning of the pandemic in March.

Despite the record daily death toll and high rate of new infections, Mr Koca said the measures were working but urged citizens to implement their own restrictions and avoid crowds.

"The rate of increase for seriously ill patients is falling. The effect of the restrictions has started showing. We hope we will feel them more soon," Mr Koca said on Twitter.

On Tuesday, Sozcu newspaper reported Mr Koca saying shipments of Sinovac's Coronavac vaccine will arrive after December 11. The vaccine, which is undergoing Phase 3 trials in Turkey and other countries, will need another two weeks of testing and analysis, it said.

In November, Turkey signed a contract to buy 50 million doses of Coronavac, to be delivered in batches between December and February.

Preliminary trial results announced last month showed the vaccine triggered a quick immune response, but the level of antibodies produced was lower than in people who had recovered from the virus.

In Brazil, where Coronavac has also been undergoing late-stage testing, Sao Paulo's Butantan Institute biomedical centre said last week it expected Sinovac to publish efficacy results from its vaccine trials by December 15.

Mr Koca said Turkey, with a population of 83 million, wanted to buy more vaccines from China but had been unable to do so, and was looking to Moscow and other possible suppliers to fill the gap until domestic production can meet demand.

"We are completing the missing toxicology part of Russian vaccine – we might buy that vaccine afterwards," he said.

Turkey is also in talks to increase the amount of coronavirus vaccine from Pfizer and BioNTech, from an initial one million doses, Sozcu reported.

"They said they can provide 25 million doses in 2021. Turkey won't be needing vaccine after April as Turkish vaccine will be used," Mr Koca said.

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