Turkey on Wednesday granted emergency-use approval for a domestically developed COVID vaccine, adding a third vaccination option for its citizens, as the Omicron version rapidly fuels outbreaks in Europe and beyond.
Health Minister Fahrettin Koca said the vaccine, called Turkovac, is expected to be ready for widespread use by the end of December. It joins two vaccines already being administered in Turkey: the Pfizer-BioNTech vaccine, which has shown initial success in preventing omicron infection in people who have received booster shots, and the CoronaVac vaccine, manufactured by Chinese company Sinovac.
Turkish officials said they hope the vaccine developed by Turkey could boost the country’s vaccination campaign at home and be exported.
“We are not stingy on drugs or vaccines,” President Recep Tayyip Erdogan said in a televised address on Wednesday. “We would be happy to share our vaccine with the world.”
Phase III trials for Turkovac began in June, and the government has offered it as an alternative to a booster shot as part of vaccine development trials.
Turkey is currently reporting around 19,000 daily coronavirus cases and around 200 Covid deaths. The country announced its first Omicron cases on December 11.
According to official figures, about 82 percent of the country’s adult population is vaccinated with two doses of either the Sinovac or Pfizer-BioEntech vaccines.
While other European countries have recently imposed lockdowns and other restrictions as the spread of the virus accelerated, Turkey has refused to do so. Instead, officials are calling on people to wear masks, maintain social distancing and get booster shots.