Turkey on Thursday began vaccinating its healthcare workers with CoronaVAC, developed by China’s Sinovac, against the coronavirus after the country’s health regulator, the Turkish Pharmaceuticals and Medical Devices Agency, issued an emergency use authorization for the vaccine on Wednesday.
Turkish Health Minister Fahrettin Koca was the first to receive the vaccine on Wednesday evening after the green light was given for its use. Koca’s vaccination was aired live on TV in an attempt to eliminate concerns about the safety of the vaccine or vaccinations in general.
“I would like to underline that every person should definitely be vaccinated. We need to have this vaccine in order to be able to return to our old lives,” said Koca after getting the shot.
The first batch of CoronaVAC, 3 million doses, arrived in Turkey on Dec. 30 after a two-week delay. These vaccines will be sufficient for only 1.5 million people as one person requires two doses to develop immunity against COVID-19.
Healthcare workers in İstanbul, Turkey’s most populous city, were the first to receive the vaccinations on Monday. The vaccines were also delivered to hospitals in other parts of the country to be administered to health workers there.
Despite widespread concerns about the safety of CoronaVAC, Turkey has ordered 50 million doses of the vaccine from the Chinese company. The vaccine has an efficacy rate of 91.25 percent based on early results of late-stage trials conducted in Turkey, according to a statement from Minister Koca in December.
However, officials in Brazil, where phase three trials of CoronaVAC were also conducted, announced on Tuesday that the vaccine was 50.38 percent effective in preventing coronavirus, a number that meets the threshold required by global regulators for approval but much lower than those of rival inoculations from Moderna, Pfizer-BioNTech and Oxford-AstraZenica.
A third trial in Indonesia showed an efficacy of 65.3 percent for CoronaVAC.
Turkey will also procure 4.5 million doses of the vaccine developed by BioNTech and Pifzer, with an option to procure 30 million more later.
The Turkish government, which has been criticized for failing to manage the COVID-19 pandemic well and allowing the pandemic get out of control by not reporting the real number of infected people, is now also receiving criticism for lagging behind other countries in beginning COVID-19 inoculations.
Meanwhile, Turkey, which is among the hardest-hit countries in the world by the coronavirus pandemic, on Wednesday reported 9,554 new cases and 173 deaths over the past 24 hours. The country’s total coronavirus death toll currently stands at 23,325.