Turkey to start virus vaccinations at end-December, says Turkish health minister

Turkey to start virus vaccinations at end-December, says Turkish health minister

Turkey to start virus vaccinations at end-December, says Turkish health minister

Turkey is set to begin vaccinations against COVID-19 at the end of December, the country’s health minister has said, reiterating that the injections will be provided to the public free of charge but vaccination will not be mandatory.

Turkey will receive 50 million coronavirus vaccines in phases starting from the next few days, Fahrettin Koca said on Dec. 9, following a meeting of the Health Ministry’s Science Board.

Ankara already signed a deal to buy the COVID-19 vaccine, being developed by China’s Sinovac.

“We are not thinking of making vaccination mandatory for now. Instead, we are aiming to convince our citizens into making mass vaccination possible,” Koca said.

The vaccinations will begin starting with health workers, but the jab will not be administered to pregnant women and to those under the age of 18 and people who contracted the virus in the past four to six months, according to the minister.

Koca further said that more than 120,000 health care workers have been infected with COVID-19 and at least 216 health care workers lost their lives.

“Turkey currently has secured access to 50 million doses of vaccine by the end of February, but we are working to obtain more injections after that. We need around 100 million doses of vaccines within the next three months. The sooner the vaccinations begin, the sooner herd immunity could be achieved,” the minister added.

Koca noted that Turkey may also obtain vaccines from Russia if the injection works succeed there and the experimental jab meets Turkey’s criteria.

Turkey is also conducting its own research on the development of a vaccine, which the minister said could be made widely available in April.

“It will provide a relief for Turkey if some 60 percent of the population is vaccinated. If the vaccination rate goes up to 70 percent to 80 percent, returning to normalcy can be much easier,” said Professor Ateş Kara from the Science Board.

If everything goes well, 60 percent of the population will be vaccinated in April or May, Kara added.

The number of COVID-19 cases in the country has exceeded 1.5 million and of these, 550,000 went through a visible sickness, the health minister also said.

“We have lost more than 15,000 people and we still continue to suffer losses." 

There has been over a five-fold rise in the daily number of COVID-19 cases and 55 percent increase in deaths compared to the previous peak in April, according to Koca.

He said the southern provinces of Hatay, Adana and Mersin, the northern province of Samsun, and the Mediterranean resort city of Antalya continue to see a rise in figures.

Major cities such as Istanbul, Ankara, İzmir, Bursa, Konya and Gaziantep, however, are seeing a slowing pace of increase in virus cases, Koca added.

“Though this situation [decrease in numbers] is reflected in the status of outpatient clinics, inpatient and intensive care units continue to have high occupancy rates. As a result of this, stricter restrictive measures were inevitable,” he said.