Turkey’s coronavirus vaccination campaign is set to ramp up significantly as Ankara plans to inoculate more than 50 million people against COVID-19 within the next two months, Health Minister Fahrettin Koca announced Thursday, Trend reports citing Daily Sabah.
Speaking at a press conference after a meeting with the Coronavirus Science Board, Koca said Turkey has so far vaccinated 6.5 million people as he explained the government’s ambitious plan to inoculate more than half of the country’s population by the end of May.
Explaining that 60% of the population needs to be vaccinated for authorities to consider calling the outbreak truly under control, Koca said the deals for the necessary doses were already signed.
“We know we will have around 105 million vaccine doses by April or May at the latest. What is important for us is to complete the vaccination campaign by the end of May,” he said.
According to Koca, an overwhelming majority of the vaccines – 100 million doses – will be sourced from Chinese pharmaceutical company Sinovac, whose CoronaVac vaccine is already being used in Turkey.
The remaining doses will be BioNTech/Pfizer’s vaccine, Koca said, adding that negotiations were already underway for Russia’s Sputnik V and the Moderna vaccine.
Regarding Turkey’s efforts to develop a domestic shot, Koca said Phase 2 trials of the leading vaccine candidate would be finished by the end of April, and by May the last phase of the trials would begin.
Reminding everyone that precautions are still the most effective tools in the fight against the coronavirus, Koca said those who were vaccinated are not immediately clear of danger.
“Protection won’t begin as soon as you get vaccinated. A person will truly be protected 14 days after their booster shot. Which means 42 days after receiving their first shot. During that period, we must protect ourselves,” he said.
Earlier in February, Turkey announced plans to gradually ease coronavirus restrictions on a provincial basis as authorities began reporting the weekly cases in cities across the country.
According to the Health Ministry, the risk level will be classified as "very high," "high," "medium" and "low" for every province. Public health boards in each province will be able to decide whether to lift restrictions or tighten them based on those levels.
Speaking about the effects prolonged lockdowns have had on people’s psychologies, Koca said it was time to assess whether the outbreak’s danger outweighed the mental toll of the restrictions.
"Until now, our Coronavirus Science Board has been at the center of the stage as it undertook important decisions. But at the same time, our Social Sciences Board has been diligently introducing strategies behind the scenes to alleviate the mental toll of the outbreak."
“And now, we are moving onto a step that prioritizes social life and the public’s mental health,” he said.
Koca said the science board has already finalized details about which restrictions would be eased depending on the risk level, and that the draft would be presented to President Recep Tayyip Erdoğan during a cabinet meeting on Monday.
The minister said the changes would only introduce the easing of restrictions and no further measures would be announced, as he declined to share any further details.
“The president will announce the changes in measures after the cabinet meeting, should he approve,” Koca said.