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Coronavirus

Sinovac's COVID-19 vaccine has 91% efficacy, Turkey says

Health minister says early results show Chinese-developed shot is 'safe'

A volunteer is injected with an experimental Chinese COVID-19 vaccine in Phase 3 trials at Kocaeli University Research Hospital in Turkey.   © Reuters

ISTANBUL -- Sinovac Biotech's COVID-19 vaccine candidate has shown an efficacy of 91.25% in Turkey, officials said Thursday, reporting the latest results of clinical trials of the Chinese-developed shot beyond China.

Turkish Health Minister Fahrettin Koca and professor Serhat Unal, a member of the government's COVID-19 advisory board, reported the preliminary results of Phase 3 trials at a news conference in Ankara.

Unal added that the efficacy "is likely to increase" in the later stages of the trials, as the number of volunteers now administered a placebo is lower than the number of volunteers who have been administered the vaccine, known as CoronaVac.

Koca said: "We can easily say the vaccine is safe, and we can use it with ease."

The news comes a day after Brazil's Butantan Institute said CoronaVac's efficacy is above the required 50% mark but postponed announcing full results of trials in the South American nation for up to 15 days, at the company's request. Indonesia is also conducting Phase 3 trials of the Chinese-developed candidate.

As Turkey grapples with high daily numbers of new infections and deaths due to the coronavirus, the government sees the preliminary results paving the way for authorizing emergency use of the vaccine.

In Turkey, 7,371 volunteers have participated in the trials so far, and data from 1,322 volunteers was used in the efficacy study, according to Unal. Only three volunteers reported positive PCR tests for COVID-19 out of the 752 who had been administered CoronaVac. Just one of them showed mild symptoms.

Among the 570 volunteers who were administered a placebo, 26 later tested as positive for COVID-19. Clinical trials will continue until the study reaches 40 people showing positive PCR test results.

A safety study conducted on 2,964 volunteers showed that the vaccine is largely safe, producing a small number of people showing minor side effects like fatigue and headache. Only one volunteer developed a mild allergic reaction.

An initial 3 million doses of the Chinese-developed vaccine will arrive in Turkey on Monday, Koca said. Turkey has signed a contract with Sinovac to receive 50 million doses through the end of February.

Koca also said Turkey will sign a contract soon to receive 4.5 million doses of the Pfizer-BioNTech COVID-19 vaccine by the end of March, with an option for an additional 30 million doses.

Turkey has been participating in Phase 3 clinical trials for both the Sinovac and Pfizer-BioNtech vaccines.

On Thursday, Turkey recorded 18,000 new cases of COVID-19 and 254 deaths. Total deaths so far exceed 19,000 people.

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