Turkey starting to vaccinate people aged 18 and above
Turkey is further widening the scope of its inoculation program by lowering the vaccine eligibility age to 18, the country’s health minister has announced.
Speaking after the Health Ministry’s Science Board meeting on June 23, Koca said that Turkey aims to vaccinate 55 million people with at least one shot by mid-July.
Those aged 18 will be able to make appointments to receive their first dose of a COVID-19 vaccine starting June 25.
Since mid-Jan, when the vaccination drive was rolled out, more than 30 million people have received their first doses while nearly 15 million people have been fully vaccinated.
The country has been using the vaccines developed by the Chinese company Sinovac and Pfizer/BioNTech in its inoculation program and may soon add Russia’s Sputnik V to its arsenal of injections.
Some 400,000 doses of the Sputnik V jab already arrived in Turkey and tests have been run on those vaccines, Koca said.
Earlier this year, Turkey singed a deal for a total of 50 million doses of the Russian vaccine.
“We were supposed to receive 100 million doses of Sinovac by the end of April at the latest, however, only 34 million doses have been delivered so far while 34.5 million doses of BioNTech vaccines have arrived to date, ” the minister said, noting that an additional 5 million doses of the BioNTech jabs are expected early next week.
In order to reduce its dependency on imported injections, Turkey has accelerated efforts to develop its own vaccine, Turkovac. The phase 3 trials for the indigenous jab began on June 22.
The vaccine will be tried on more than 40,000 volunteers, and experts say that the whole process can be concluded by November.
Officials, on the other hand, are mulling plans to start to administer a third those of the COVID-19 vaccine in July.
‘Delta variant detected in 16 provinces’
Koca also said a total of 134 cases of the Delta variant, which was first detected in India, were confirmed in 16 provinces. “No cases of Delta Plus variant has been detected yet.” he added.
“Eighty-two of those cases were in Istanbul and four cases of the Delta variant were found in Ankara, while there were three cases in [the western province of] İzmir,” the minister said.
Some 18 cases were confirmed in the northwestern province of Düzce and four cases in the eastern province of Van, according to Koca.
The minister also said that the coronavirus has killed nearly 50,000 people in Turkey but at least another 50,000 people have lost their lives due to the indirect effects of the pandemic, such as delayed health services and care.
“During the pandemic, heart attack diagnoses declined 56 percent, but the deaths from heart attacks rose more than 10 percent,” Koca said.
As the number of daily virus cases declined over the past couple of weeks, the government decided to ease COVID-19 restrictions starting July 1. Weeknight curfews and lockdowns on Sundays will be lifted.