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Turkey rolls out its own Covid-19 vaccine

A health worker holds vials of Turkey's domestically developed Turkovac Covid-19 vaccine at the vaccine's manufacturing facility in Sanliurfa.
A health worker holds vials of Turkey's domestically developed Turkovac Covid-19 vaccine at the vaccine's manufacturing facility in Sanliurfa.

ANKARA: Turkey began administering its domestically developed Covid-19 vaccine, Turkovac, at hospitals across the country on Thursday, amid a rapid surge in infections due to the Omicron variant.


Turkey has already administered more than 130 million doses of vaccines using shots developed by China's Sinovac and by Pfizer/BioNTech. It also began administering booster shots.


Turkovac received emergency use authorisation from Turkish authorities last week, after its launch was beset by delays for months.


Daily coronavirus cases jumped beyond 30,000 this week for the first time since October. New infections surged 30% on Monday and jumped further to beyond 36,000 on Wednesday, the highest daily figure since April 29.


Health Minister Fahrettin Koca has urged citizens to get their booster shots.


Koca met with the country's coronavirus science council on Wednesday to discuss the Turkovac rollout and rising infections after receiving a booster shot with the domestic vaccine, but said no new restrictions were being considered for now.


"The faster spread of the Omicron variant is not causing a change in measures. The importance of personal measures against this variant that spreads faster has significantly increased," Koca said in a statement after the science council meeting.


"Our domestic vaccine Turkovac will begin to be administered at our city hospitals from (Thursday). It is possible to receive the booster shot with our domestic vaccine. No matter what type of vaccine you received before, you can get your booster vaccine with Turkovac," he added.


President Tayyip Erdogan has repeatedly said his government would make Turkovac available globally, but Ankara has yet to release detailed information about the vaccine's efficacy rate or results from clinical trials.


TURKISH PASSENGERS BARRED


Meanwhile, seven European nations, including the Netherlands, Italy and Spain, have barred Turkish passengers from entering their countries as the Omicron variant spreads, according to travel guidance by Turkey's Civil Aviation Authority (SHGM).


The SHGM's Covid-19 travel guidance, last updated on December 28, said the Netherlands, Italy, Spain, Luxembourg, Croatia, Iceland and Switzerland would no longer accept Turkish passengers. It said Turkish passengers would need to show proof of vaccination when entering Portugal or Sweden.


"Entry cannot be made from our country," the SHGM list said for the seven European countries, without elaborating.


The SHGM also updated travel restrictions for Iraq and Iran, saying passengers travelling to the two countries may be subject to 14-day quarantine upon entry, while other travellers would need a negative PCR test.


It was not immediately clear when the new restrictions were put in place or how long they would be in effect.


The Netherlands announced a snap Covid-19 Christmas lockdown earlier this month, which will be reviewed on January 14. Other countries have seen record number of coronavirus cases in recent weeks, working to balance restrictions while keeping economies running.


Turkey has said it was not considering new restrictions for the moment, instead urging citizens to ramp up personal measures and get vaccinated. -- Reuters


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