Vaccination for COVID-19 not mandatory, says health minister
Planned vaccinations for COVID-19 in Turkey will not be mandatory, the country’s health minister has said, adding that however the public will be tried to be persuaded to get injected.
“This issue was discussed at [the Health Ministry’s] Science Board and we came to the conclusion that vaccination will not be mandatory, but the public should be informed about the methods the jab is produced, which production is better. We will explain to the public that what matters is not the country of origin of the vaccine but the production method,” Health Minister Fahrettin Koca told daily Hürriyet.
Turkey has signed a contract to buy at least 50 million doses of a vaccine being developed by China.
Earlier this week Koca said that with the first shipment of vaccines is expected to arrive in Ankara sometime after Dec. 11.
The minister suggested that the cost issue did not play a part in deciding what vaccine will be administered but the safety and production method.
“The Chinese vaccine is an inactivated injection, and this has proved to be the best method for the production of a vaccine. These types of vaccines’ long-term effects are known, and they do not have side effects, whereas little known about the long-term effects of the vaccines which are produced through mRNA method and produced good results in a short period of time,” Koca explained.
He also stressed that the method used to produce inactivated vaccines are rather more difficult and more expensive.
Koca underlined that the third phase tests of the Chinese vaccine are still ongoing and that this jab will not be administered to people in Turkey until after the results of the third phase studies come out.
Once the injection clears all required approvals, he will be the first one to get vaccinated publicly at a hospital, the minister said.
Koca this week announced that vaccinations in Turkey will be carried out in four stages.
The first group includes health care workers, citizens above the age of 65, and people living in homes for the elderly, disabled or other protective care homes. Next will be essential workers and people above 50 with at least one chronic disease. Third, people younger than 50 with at least one chronic illness, young adults and other workers will be vaccinated. In the fourth and final stage, all individuals other than the first three groups will be vaccinated.
The vaccine being developed jointly by Pfizer and BioNTech may not be easily available in Turkey due to certain logistics problems, according to Professor Mehmet Ceyhan, a leading expert in infectious diseases.
“This vaccine must be stored in minus 70 degrees Celsius, which requires specialty expensive freezers. A pharmacy is not likely to pay some $10,000 to buy this equipment to sell 50 to 60 doses of this vaccine,” Ceyhan told daily Milliyet, adding that it is unlikely that this injection will be sold at pharmacies in Turkey.