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UPDATE 2 - Turkey to launch local COVID-19 vaccine by April

UPDATE 2 - Turkey to launch local COVID-19 vaccine by April
Phase 1 trials ongoing with none of the volunteers showing any side effects, says President Erdogan


By Emin Avundukluoglu

ANKARA (AA) – As prospective vaccines make headlines worldwide, Turkey is planning to unveil its own local COVID-19 vaccine by April, the country’s president said on Wednesday.

"We’ve made good progress on our local vaccine. We plan to bring our own vaccine to market by April at the latest," Recep Tayyip Erdogan told the Justice and Development (AK) Party's parliamentary group.

Turkey is closely following vaccine developments in China, Russia, the US, and Europe, the president said.

"We’ve already given pre-orders for some of them. We hope to give first shots of the vaccines by the end of this month," he said.

Officials have previously said that healthcare workers and other key figures would get the vaccine first.

The vaccines should be used for the common good of humanity regardless of political differences or commercial interests, said Erdogan.

"We believe it makes no sense for individual countries to secure themselves before the whole world is freed from the epidemic threat," he said, in what seemed to be a jab at developed nations.

Clinical tests of the Turkish vaccine are progressing smoothly, with none of the volunteers exhibiting any side effects, according to recent reports.

To date some 44 volunteers are taking part in Phase 1 trials of the Turkish ERUCOV-VAC vaccine.

Since it emerged last December in China, COVID-19 has infected over 59.82 million people and claimed more than 1.41 million lives worldwide, according to a tally by the US’ Johns Hopkins University.

- Reform agenda

In the days to come, said Erdogan, Turkey will launch comprehensive economic reforms on investment, production, export, and employment.

"After budget debates [in parliament in December], we will carry out comprehensive reforms in this direction one by one," he said.

He stressed that they would shortly finalize a human rights action plan with measures to boost trust.

"We will present preparations to parliament through our [parliamentary] group after consulting with all sectors concerned with human rights as well as the economic administration and business world," he said.

The reforms will be spearheaded by the People's Alliance, made up of the ruling AK Party and Nationalist Movement Party (MHP), he said.

In recent weeks, Turkey has replaced key members of its economic team, including the Central Bank head and treasury and finance minister.

Last week, markets welcomed a rise in interest rates from the Central Bank, and Erdogan has pledged further reforms in the months to come.

- Bulent Arinc

Erdogan also criticized remarks by former Parliament Speaker Bulent Arinc on Selahattin Demirtas, the currently arrested former co-chair of the Peoples' Democratic Party (HDP).

"Recommending a book written by one of these terrorists truly offended me," said Erdogan, referring to Arinc urging people to read Demirtas’s book Seher or Dawn.

Demirtas has "the blood of thousands of Kurdish brothers, soldiers, police officers, and teachers, and wears a political mask," said Erdogan.

"We regret those who waste the country's time and energy by acting with vicious political or individual calculations," he added.

Arinc recently said that both Demirtas and businessman Osman Kavala should be released from prison.

His remarks stirred a wave of controversy, as the two were arrested on serious criminal charges, including terrorism-related crimes.

Arinc, most recently a member of Turkey's presidential high advisory board, stepped down from the board on Tuesday.

- Kavala and Demirtas cases

Kavala was first arrested on criminal charges related to the 2013 Gezi protests, when small protests in Istanbul spread into nationwide demonstrations which left eight protesters and a police officer dead.

Turkey’s government has said the protests amounted to a coup attempt.

Kavala was later remanded into custody by an Istanbul court as part of a probe into the July 2016 defeated coup, with prosecutors accusing him of spying.

An indictment accuses Kavala of violating the Constitution and taking part in political or military espionage activities.

The Fetullah Terrorist Organization (FETO) and its US-based leader Fetullah Gulen orchestrated the defeated coup of July 15, 2016 which left 251 people martyred and nearly 2,200 injured.

Turkey accuses FETO of a long-running campaign to overthrow the state through the infiltration of Turkish institutions, particularly the military, police and judiciary.

In September 2018, HDP leader Demirtas was sentenced to nearly five years in prison for spreading terrorist propaganda, leading a terrorist organization, and public incitement to hatred and hostility.

Turkey's government accuses the HDP of having links to the terrorist group PKK.

In its more than 30-year terror campaign against Turkey, the PKK – listed as a terrorist organization by Turkey, the US, and the EU – has been responsible for the deaths of nearly 40,000 people, including women, children, and infants. The YPG is the PKK’s Syrian offshoot.

source: News Feed
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