Second hope: Turkey begins new round of COVID-19 vaccines


Hospitals and clinics across Turkey have been busy lately with the COVID-19 vaccination campaign. More than 2.8 million people have now received the vaccine as part of the campaign, and health workers, who were the first to receive injections last month, began receiving the second dose of CoronaVac on Thursday. The inactive vaccine developed by Chinese company Sinovac is the only one available in the country, which plans to receive its first doses of the messenger RNA (mRNA) vaccine developed by Pfizer-BioNTech later this month.

While health workers received their second injection, people aged 70 and over receive their first injections starting Thursday. On Friday, people aged 65 and over will receive their first injections. The country’s oldest citizens were vaccinated with their first vaccines shortly after the first doses were given to health workers. After completing the vaccination of the elderly, the country will move to vaccination without age in the next phase of the plan. These people include military, police, teachers, and people working in areas critical to daily life, from logistics to the food industry. A vaccination is also planned this weekend for members of the Cabinet, with the aim of setting an example to the public. Vaccine and anti-vaccine skeptics are thriving on social media, seeking to deter inoculation, although surveys show a large majority of people are ready to be vaccinated.

Turkey received its first shipment of COVID-19 vaccines on December 30 and gave them emergency use approval on January 13, a day before administering them to health workers.

Erdoğan receives the 2nd dose

Health Minister Fahrettin Koca, members of the Ministry’s Scientific Advisory Board on Coronavirus and President Recep Tayyip Erdoğan were also vaccinated with the first dose. Erdoğan announced on his Telegram account on Thursday that he had had his second jab. The leader of the Nationalist Movement Party (MHP), Devlet Bahçeli, also received his second dose. After healthcare workers, residents and nursing home staff were vaccinated.

The country received an additional 10 million doses later in January, in two shipments. In total, Turkey has acquired around 15 million doses. The authorities have signed agreements to obtain more than 100 million doses of vaccine for the country of more than 83 million people. Koca announced Wednesday that a delivery of “500,000 to 800,000” doses of the Pfizer-BioNTech vaccine would arrive in the coming weeks while warning of new variants of the virus. By the end of March, the country plans to acquire a total of 5 million doses of this vaccine, born from the imagination of a Turkish couple living in Germany.

Vaccination deployment is an appointment-only process. Each citizen is required to make an appointment online or to agree on a vaccination time via a hotline from the Ministry of Health. This practice aims to avoid overcrowding in clinics and hospitals. However, health care teams continue to immunize those who cannot leave their homes, especially in remote rural areas with no clinics nearby.

The age limit will be gradually lowered towards the youngest, and the penultimate group to be vaccinated will be that of 18 to 29 years old. Those who miss their scheduled vaccination period will be the last to be vaccinated.

“We had the opportunity to familiarize ourselves with the vaccine,” associate professor Nurettin Yiyit, who received his second vaccine on Thursday, told Anadolu Agency (AA). Yiyit is the Chief Medical Officer of the Sancaktepe Şehit Prof. Training and Research Hospital. Dr. Ilhan Varank in Istanbul. The pandemic hospital has long been at the forefront of efforts to treat thousands of people infected with the virus since last year. About 4,500 people were vaccinated at the hospital. Yiyit said he did not experience any serious side effects except for a minor rash in three health workers. “No one who has received vaccines has been infected with the virus so far,” he said.

Asım Ocaklı, a surgeon at the hospital who received his second vaccine, said he had no problems. Maternity staff member Ayşegül Erdal said she felt “safer” after the vaccination. “People should trust the vaccine,” she said. Nurse Esra Zindanoğlu said that they were impatiently awaiting the vaccine and that she almost “ran” for the vaccine. “It is currently the only solution against the pandemic,” she said.

Next phase for the local vaccine

Turkey is looking to diversify its vaccine options, and officials are hopeful that a locally made vaccine will soon be available to citizens as well. An inactive vaccine candidate, similar to CoronaVac, leads the race for national vaccines. Developed by scientists at Erciyes University in central Kayseri province, ERUCOV-VAC switched to phase two of human trials on Wednesday, two months after the start of phase one trials. Some 250 volunteers will be vaccinated. Scientists hope to make it available for use in June after the completion of the analysis and approval processes that follow the trials. The university is cooperating with a local pharmaceutical company on its plan to produce 10 million doses per month.

Authorities say three more local vaccines will likely receive approval for phase one trials in the coming weeks. Among them are an inactive vaccine developed by the University of Selçuk in the central province of Konya, a vaccine based on viral particles (VLP) developed by the Technical University of the Middle East (METU) and a vaccine based on adenovirus virus from Ankara University in the Turkish capital. .


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