CoronaVac has come under increasing scrutiny after Brazilian researchers found it to be just over 50% effective.
Turkish doctors and nurses rolled up their sleeves on Thursday as the nation of 83 million people launched a mass coronavirus vaccination campaign with China’s Sinovac vaccine.
Health Minister Fahrettin Koca received the first photo of CoronaVac live on television after officially approving the vaccine on Wednesday despite conflicting data on its rate of effectiveness.
Preliminary studies involving more than 7,000 volunteers in Turkey have shown CoronaVac to be 91.25% effective.
The shot, however, has come under close scrutiny by regulators after the latest data from Brazil showed it was a little over 50% efficiency – slightly above the reference value set by the World Health Organization for a vaccine to be effective for general use.
The week before, Brazilian researchers said it was 78% effective, but revised that figure to say it did not include all data from clinical trials.
A third trial in Indonesia found a success rate of 65.3%, which still raises concerns about the transparency of Chinese manufacturers.
The Beijing-based pharmaceutical company defended the jab, saying it was still safe.
‘Hope for everyone’
Turkish TV was covered with footage on Thursday of healthcare workers receiving their first doses as officials tried to raise awareness and accept the vaccine.
More than 2.3 million people have been infected with the coronavirus in Turkey and more than 23,000 have died.
After covering 1.1 million health care workers, the immunization program will shift to essential workers and people aged 65 and over.
“The last two months have been very critical in Turkey, which is why it is hope for everyone,” said Sinem Koseoglu of Al Jazeera, reporting from a public hospital in Istanbul where the health workers received the vaccine.
“The clinical results revealed by Brazil have raised concerns among the public. However, according to the polls here, at least 41% of Turks are ready to be vaccinated.
Professor Recep Demirhan, chief medical officer at an Istanbul hospital, assured the public about the safety of the vaccine while receiving a vaccine.
“Our citizens shouldn’t worry,” he told reporters. “We have done preliminary tests on all the vaccines coming into Turkey and they are safe.”
Turkey has signed for 50 million doses of CoronaVac, of which 20 million are expected to arrive by the end of the month.
The official Anadolu Agency reported that Turkey had also sent 20,000 doses to the breakaway state of northern Cyprus.
In December, Turkey also reached an agreement to receive 4.5 million doses of the Pfizer-BioNTech vaccine by the end of March.
Officials hope to receive up to 30 million doses of the Pfizer-BioNTech jab, although discussions are still ongoing.