Turkey plans to roll out local vaccine by end summer, says health minister
Turkey plans to roll out its domestically developed vaccine against COVID-19 by the end of this summer, the country’s health minister has said.
There are 18 Turkish vaccine candidates on the World Health Organization (WHO) list, Fahrettin Koca added, addressing the organization's media briefing on April 1.
“Turkey’s domestic vaccine production work continues rapidly. I believe that our first vaccine will be ready and successful by August, September — by the summer term,” the minister said.
Speaking at the same webinar, WHO Director-General Tedros Ghebreyesus said that when Turkey produces a vaccine, it will help address “vaccine equity.”
Both Tedros and Koca agreed on enabling vaccine production globally without making intellectual property rights an issue.
Turkey assumed “the role of a facilitator” by establishing “diplomatic bridges” between the vaccine-manufacturing countries and the countries experiencing problems with access to the COVID-19 jabs, Koca added.
Ankara collaborated with 14 international organizations, including the WHO, in the COVID-19 process and he was personally in touch with the health ministers of 20 countries, Koca said, adding that the Health Ministry’s Science Board shared its experiences with 13 countries.
He also informed that Turkey completed the vaccination of 1.1 million health workers in 45 days.
The country launched the inoculation drive on Jan. 14, starting with front-line health care staff and the elderly.
To date, more than 16 million doses of the jab have been administered with over 7 million people having received both doses. Some 9.4 million people have received both doses.
Since the start of the vaccination, Turkey had used the injection developed by China’s Sinovac. However, the country has begun to administer the Pfizer/BioNTech vaccine, which is expected to give a boost to the inoculation drive at a time when the country is facing a surge in the daily number of COVID-19 cases.
Turkey recorded a total of 40,806 new coronavirus cases, the Health Ministry said on April 1, the highest level since the beginning of the pandemic.
Virus overwhelming ICUs
The latest data from the Health Ministry showed that the occupancy rate at hospitals’ intensive care units (ICUs) have climbed to 63.2 percent from 60 percent at the end of February.
“This figure means troubles have started at ICUs. Alarm bells are ringing. The problems are running deeper particularly in Istanbul than in other cities. We are also seeing significant increases in Ankara and İzmir,” said Professor Zafer Kurugöl, from Ege University Medical School in İzmir.
The rise in the number of patients in the ICUs is not a good sign, warned Professor Levent Akın at Hacettepe University Medical School in the capital.
“We will see the effects of today’s cases on hospitals in mid-April,” he said, cautioning that if the ICUs are overwhelmed by the caseloads, declaring full lockdowns may be possible.