Turkey announces vaccination plan for Chinese CoronaVac

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FILE - In this Oct. 9, 2020 file photo, a health worker administers the first dose of a COVID-19 vaccine currently on phase III clinical trials to Cem Gun, an Emergency Medicine Physician, at the Acibadem Hospital in Istanbul, Friday, Oct. 9, 2020. Turkish health minister Fahrettin Koca, who had previously announced an agreement with Chinese biopharmaceutical company Sinovac Biotech for 50 million doses of CoronaVac, said in a statement late Wednesday, Dec. 2, 2020, that the first shipment of the inactivated vaccine will arrive in Turkey after Dec. 11. (AP Photo/Emrah Gurel, file)

ISTANBUL – Turkey’s health minister has announced a plan to start using an experimental Chinese COVID-19 vaccine later this month amid a surge in infections and deaths.

Fahrettin Koca had previously announced an agreement with China’s Sinovac Biotech for 50 million doses of CoronaVac, which is currently in late stage trials. Koca said in a statement late Wednesday that the first shipment of the vaccine will arrive in Turkey after Dec. 11.

The minister said early use authorization would be granted after Turkish labs confirm the shots are safe and after assessment of initial results from the latest trials.

“If developments continue positively as we expect, Turkey would be among the first countries in the world to begin vaccinations in the early phase,” Koca said.

In November, The Lancet published a study about the efficacy of Sinovac’s vaccine candidate based on initial clinical trials. The study said the efficacy was determined to be moderate, and that the vaccine produced lower levels of antibodies than those that have been found in recovered COVID-19 patients.

“The protective efficacy of CoronaVac remains to be determined,” the study said.

Candidates from Pfizer-BioNTech and Moderna have said that they have more than 90% efficacy rates. The U.K.’s AstraZeneca have an efficacy rate of 70-90%, again based on limited clinical trials.

Vaccination efforts would be rolled out in four stages, the minister said. 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.