Jab drive needs to accelerate to reach herd immunity, says health minister
Turkey’s vaccination drive needs to be accelerated in order to reach herd immunity, Health Minister Fahrettin Koca has said.
“The figures provided for the number of people vaccinated could be misleading. We need to look at the vaccination rate in the entire population. Only 59 percent of the population have been double jabbed. This must go up above 70 percent to achieve herd immunity,” Koca wrote on Twitter on Nov. 4, adding that a little more than 67 percent have received their first doses of the COVID-19 jabs.
According to data from the Health Ministry, to date, over 49 million, which correspond to nearly 79 percent of the adult population, have been fully vaccinated, while more than 55 million people aged 18 and above have been given at least one dose of the jab.
The minister’s call for the speeding up of the inoculation drive came on the day Turkey started giving booster shots of the Pfizer-BioNTech COVID-19 vaccine to people who received their second dose of the jab of the same vaccine at least six months ago.
According to the booster shot program announced this week, people aged 60 and above, those aged between 18 and 60 with chronic illnesses, health workers and other professionals at high risk are now eligible for the third dose of the Pfizer/BioNTech vaccine.
In its vaccination drive, which began in January, Turkey is using both the Pfizer/BioNTech vaccine and the jab developed by the Chinese company Sinovac.
The country was already giving additional doses to those who have received two shots of the Sinovac vaccine.
Authorities are yet to assess how to proceed with the Sinovac recipients, said Professor Nurettin Yiyit, from the Health Ministry’s Science Board, which advises the government on the COVID-19 pandemic.
“Only time will tell whether those who have been given two doses of the Sinovac plus one dose of the Pfizer/BioNTech and those who have received three doses of the Sinovac vaccine, will need additional shots,” Yiyit said.
“We will look into the results of the studies we are conducting to make a decision,” he added.
He reiterated that even two doses of the vaccine work very well and help prevent hospitalization, noting that 95 percent of the patients treated for COVID-19 in intensive care units are unvaccinated.
Professor Tevfik Ünlü from the Science Board echoed Koca in stressing the need for speeding up the vaccination drive.
“What matters is not the vaccination rate but also the speed of jab program. We may not achieve herd immunity if we cannot accelerate the pace of the vaccinations,” Ünlü said.