'Turkish vaccine efforts unlikely to fill shortage of supply from China'

Vaccine efforts in Turkey are unlikely to yield the results needed to make up for the 50 million dose deficit in the supply from China, Turkish Medical Association Secretary General Prof. Vedat Bulut said. Even if Turkish efforts proceed without setbacks, vaccine production of that volume requires infrastructure that doesn't currently exist in Turkey, Bulut noted.

Müzeyyen Yüce / DUVAR

Turkey shouldn't rely on a domestic COVID-19 vaccine, promised by the government to be ready in April, to make up for the shortage in the vaccine supply from China, says Turkish Medical Association (TTB) Secretary General and Immunology expert Prof. Vedat Bulut. 

A vaccine study at Erciyes University recently completed phase 1 of its vaccine trials, and is set to start phase 2 on Dec. 25, Health Minister Fahrettin Koca said. China has recently turned down Ankara's request for extra supply, additional to the 50 million doses that were delivered, to ensure sufficient immunity in Turkey.

Vaccine trials require extensive disclosure of results at the end of each phase, which makes the current schedule for Turkey's domestic vaccine a little crunched, Bulut noted.

"Considering Turkey's existing bureaucracy and the studies' ethics, I find April to be an early estimate. If production steps up, we'll have the domestic vaccine on hand by July," Bulut noted. 

The completion of phase 3 of the domestic vaccine trials still doesn't guarantee the supply of millions of vaccines, Bulut said, adding that vaccines require facilities with "good manufacturing practices," the global standard for the production process.

“So if we're hoping to make up a shortage of 50 to 100 million doses of the vaccine by producing it in Turkey, steps should be taken immediately to connect with companies and build infrastructure. This takes investment."

Turkey also currently lacks the bioreactor labs required to manufacture vaccines, and any foreign companies' investment into creating the infrastructure here would take at least six months, Bulut added. 

"It's risky for the country to put their hopes in the domestic vaccine at this time."

Meanwhile, Health Ministry official and Gazi University President Prof. Necmi İlhan said that the public should "relax and trust the vaccine" since there are numerous ongoing trials in Turkey that could yield results to make up for the shortage in the vaccine supply."