Turkey to begin vaccinating people aged over 60 and risk groups

Turkey to begin vaccinating people aged over 60 and risk groups

Turkey to begin vaccinating people aged over 60 and risk groups

Turkey is ramping up its vaccination drive against COVID-19 by adding people aged over 60 and some risk groups with underlying conditions to the program, the country’s health minister has announced.

The country launched inoculations against the coronavirus on Jan. 14 with the jab by the Chinese pharmaceuticals company Sinovac. To date, nearly 15 million doses of the vaccine has been administered, with over 8.2 million receiving their first shots. More than 6.4 million people have received both doses.

“Citizens over the age of 60 will be able to get vaccinations by appointment with their spouses. In addition, some risk groups were included in the program,” Fahrettin Koca said on Twitter on March 27.

Patients with morbid obesity, cancer with a malignant tumor, and those receiving dialysis, as well as people with Down’s syndrome and those receiving immunosuppressive treatment, were identified in the system for priority vaccine jabs, according to the minister.

“We want to protect our most vulnerable citizens as soon as possible,” Koca said.

Last week, the minister announced that a total of 100 million doses of COVID-19 vaccines are expected to arrive in Turkey by the end of May.

The country already received 1.4 million Pfizer/BioNTech jabs and the figure will reach 4.5 million by April, according to Koca.

He added that an optional deal for another 30 million shots from Pfizer/BioNTech was made and that initial talks already began for the procurement of Russia’s Sputnik-V injection.

Vaccine studies

Apart from efforts to procure injections from other countries, Turkey is also conducting studies to develop its own vaccine, including the one in the form of a nasal spray.

If successful, it would be the first intranasal vaccine against COVID-19 in the world, Koca said on March 25 following the meeting of the Health Ministry’s Science Board, adding that phase 1 studies for this innovative jab would start soon.

Koca added that a single facility could produce annually 250 million doses of this jab.

“This nasal vaccine will be very effective in preventing the spread of the coronavirus,” said Professor Mehmet Ceyhan, an expert in infectious diseases at Hacettepe University in Ankara.

This nasal vaccine will be restored and delivered easily in room temperature and it will block the virus from entering the body as it is administered through the nose, Ceyhan added.

It will be easily employed, there will no need to use a syringe and thus it will help reduce vaccine hesitancy among the public, he explained, noting that people are avoiding jabs fearing that they may get infections.

“People can administer this nasal spray by themselves. If it is produced enough, a lot of people could be vaccinated in a short period of time. It is administered at one go, not two doses unlike other vaccines,” Ceyhan said.

However, he noted that it could take up to 6 to 8 months to develop the nasal vaccine.