Unvaccinated pregnant women constitute 99% of deaths from COVID-19 among expectant mothers, according to Health Minister Fahrettin Koca.
Experts say mothers-to-be usually tend to avoid the vaccination based on the false belief that it could cause harm to their health or the health of their babies.
Koca, who spoke after a meeting of his ministry’s Coronavirus Scientific Advisory Board, said the board called upon all expectant mothers to get vaccinated. He noted that number of fatalities among pregnant women showed a 52% increase last year compared to 2019 and a similar trend was continuing in 2021.
“We lost 50% more expectant mothers this year compared to 2020 due to COVID-19. Despite our calls for vaccination, inoculation rates among pregnant women are still low unfortunately,” he lamented.
The minister also spoke about the current course of the pandemic, as the number of daily cases has been fluctuating around 29,000 over the past few weeks. He said that although the numbers are high, Turkey did not see a “steep rise.”
“We did not see a sharp drop yet but we don’t see dramatic, sudden surges as well. This is because of (rising) vaccination rate. Vaccination prevented uncontrolled rise in the number of daily cases. We think that daily numbers will soon decrease but increasing the vaccination rate is key to achieve this,” he added.
The country’s vaccination program gained momentum this summer though vaccine hesitancy among the public prevents Turkey from achieving mass immunity essential to ending the pandemic. Vaccination is currently open to people at the age of 15 and above, while children at the age of 12 and above are eligible if they have a chronic disease. Members of Coronavirus Scientific Advisory Board say they would soon debate the possible eligibility of younger children for jabs.
Professor Ateş Kara, a member of the board, told the Hürriyet newspaper on Thursday that they were reviewing the data regarding the rate of infected children in Turkey and rate of intensive care among them.
“We see infections more among children in parallel with rising vaccination rate among adults,” he noted. Professor Mehmet Ceyhan, a children’s infectious disease expert, says vaccination of children should be seriously considered. Ceyhan told Hürriyet that cases were rising among children though fatalities were rare.
“Getting children vaccinated is important for mass immunity, because children make up 20% of the population,” he added.