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Turkey's COVID-19 fight hastening efforts for locally-produced COVID-19 vaccine

"Efforts to produce COVID-19 vaccines have paved the way for a process to regain our former experience, create our infrastructure, train seasoned personnel," Dr. Semra Aydın -- a faculty member of the Institute of Hacettepe University -- said in her comments to reporters on Tuesday.

Anadolu Agency WORLD
Published January 26,2021
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Turkey's vaccine sector is being revived amid the country's ongoing efforts to produce a jab against the novel coronavirus, experts say.

With scientists in the country currently working on 17 separate publicly-supported vaccine candidates against COVID-19, Turkey has been in the process of revitalizing its infrastructure and manpower to produce shots for other diseases in the future once the current pandemic subsides.

"Efforts to produce COVID-19 vaccines have paved the way for a process to regain our former experience, create our infrastructure, train seasoned personnel," said Dr. Semra Aydin, a faculty member of the Vaccine Institute of Hacettepe University in the capital Ankara.

Aydin told Anadolu Agency that this process would "provide advantages" in producing new vaccines in the future, or in indigenously producing government-mandated shots.

Noting that many Turkish labs are part of an international network under the EU official Drug Control Laboratory (OMCL), she pointed out that various vaccines had been produced in Turkey until the end of the 1990s, with some animal vaccines still produced today.

COVID-19 VACCINE

Endeavors to develop a vaccine to help overcome the current outbreak are ongoing at different stages across Turkey, with scientists working on a wide variety including some based on inactive viruses, as well as others on adenoviruses and virus-like particles.

"If all goes well, we anticipate that we will be able to have our domestic vaccine in the summer at the latest," said Dr. Sezer Okay, another member of the Vaccine Institute.

Underlining that nearly all known methods of vaccine development were being used in the various studies in Turkey, Okay told Anadolu Agency that since COVID-19 is a relatively new disease, it is difficult to discern which type of jab would be most effective against it.

"There is also no 100% clarity about which vaccine will be more effective," explained Okay, while stressing that people should trust vaccines developed in the country as "we can monitor every stage of vaccine development with transparency."

Okay underlined that current efforts by the Vaccine Institute are progressing rapidly with the support of Turkey's Institutes of Health Administration (TUSEB).

"The vaccine that we have developed falls into the peptide vaccine variety. We can define peptides as small protein particles of the virus," he said, adding that they were currently at the animal trial stages.

STAGES OF VACCINE DEVELOPMENT STUDIES

Vaccine development studies are conducted in four stages, from the pre-clinical stage to Phase 1, Phase 2 and Phase 3.

In preclinical studies, candidate jabs are tested on animals to determine their reliability and effectiveness.

During this phase, candidates are tested for side effects and whether they produce sufficient antibodies.

The vaccine is then tested on humans in Phase 1, Phase 2 and Phase 3 stages.

In Phase 1, the reliability and possible side effects of the vaccine are investigated on a small number of volunteers comprising of healthy subjects.

Phase 2 trials focus on a candidate's effectiveness after its reliability was confirmed in the previous stage. They are carried out on more than 100 subjects.

Finally, at the Phase 3 stage, the same process is repeated on several thousand subjects.

One candidate vaccine will soon start Phase 2 tests, while the pre-clinical trials of seven others have been completed and are ongoing for the remaining studies.