Turkey to roll out domestic COVID-19 vaccine by April

Turkey expects to develop an indigenous COVID-19 vaccine by April, Health Minister Fahrettin Koca said late on Saturday.

Phase II of clinical trials for the Turkish-made ERUCOV-VAC vaccine will begin on Dec. 25, Koca told lawmakers during a 2021 budget debate in parliament, state-run Anadolu news agency reported on Sunday. Production for the trial vaccine began on Wednesday, he said.

Phase II expands the scope of the first phase's vaccine development from by increasing the test group and administering the experimental vaccine to people who have characteristics, such as age and physical health, similar to those for whom the new vaccine is intended.

The ERUCOV-VAC vaccine is being developed at Erciyes University in the central Kayseri province with support from Turkey's Institutes of Health Administration (TÜSEB), Anadolu said.

Koca said Turkey will also have access to safe and efficient vaccines made elsewhere in the world, according to the news agency.

Koca's comments came as the Health Ministry reported a near-record high of 222 coronavirus-related deaths within the time span of 24 hours, on Saturday. The ministry announced 226 deaths on Friday, a new record since Turkey's first COVID-19 case announced in March.

Turkey's official death toll stands at 16,199.

Out of the 29,136 people tested positive for COVID-19 since Friday evening, a total of 5,203 were recorded to be symptomatic, according to Health Ministry data.

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