Turkey to begin COVID-19 vaccine jabs by this weekend

Turkey to begin COVID-19 vaccine jabs by this weekend

Turkey to begin COVID-19 vaccine jabs by this weekend

Turkey is planning to begin administering COVID-19 vaccines by this weekend, probably on Jan. 14 or Jan. 15, President Recep Tayyip Erdoğan has said, adding that coronavirus-related restrictions will be eased gradually when the infection numbers fall under a certain number.

“Until a lasting solution is found for this [pandemic] problem, we must continue to lead our lives with restrictions,” Erdoğan said on Jan. 11 after a cabinet meeting in Ankara.

The country’s massive inoculation drive will start with health workers, people over 65, members of the police force, teachers and residents of nursing homes.

The vaccination will not be mandatory, but people’s written consent will be sought.

According to the initial inoculation program Health Minister Fahrettin Koca unveiled previously, those who work in critical jobs and people aged 50 and above having at least one chronic disease will be vaccinated in the second stage.

The third stage will include those with at least one chronic disease aged below 50, young adults. In the fourth and final stage, the rest of the population will be vaccinated.

Turkey has agreed to purchase 50 million doses of the Chinese company Sinovac’s COVID-19 vaccine and has received the delivery of an initial 3 million doses on Dec. 30, 2020. The analysis of the samples from the Chinese jabs is expected to be completed this week. When they pass the tests, the jabs will be approved for emergency use.

The authorities have specially equipped trucks and vans ready to dispatch the injections to the country’s 81 provinces.

Turkey has also agreed to procure 4.5 million doses of the vaccine developed by Germany-based BioNTech and Pfizer, with an option to buy 30 million more later.

“We reached an agreement for the German originated vaccine, but talks are underway. A final decision has not been made mutually,” Erdoğan said after the cabinet meeting, noting that Turkey is keeping an eye on the vaccines being developed in Russia and the U.K.

The president did not specify when the virus-related restrictions could start to be lifted.

As part of wider measures to bring the spread of the virus under control, Turkey has been imposing weeknight curfews and full weekend lockdowns for more than a month. Schools, restaurants and cafes are also closed.

Koca has repeatedly said that the restrictions help reduce the daily infections.

“The decline in the number of patients in critical condition is promising. Measures are our biggest weapon. It is important to comply with the restrictions and measures until the vaccination program is completed. We will win together,” Koca said on Twitter on Jan. 11.