Over 138 million COVID-19 vaccine shots given in Turkey since the country launched an immunization drive in January, authorities calling for more people to get vaccinated as case numbers skyrocket.
It has been one year since Health Minister Fahrettin Koca and members of his ministry’s Coronavirus Scientific Advisory Board lined up outside a vaccination room at Ankara City Hospital in the Turkish capital to get their COVID-19 jabs, becoming the first group of people in the country to get vaccinated against the deadly disease.
Turkey’s vaccination program, which started with health care workers, has come a long way since Jan. 13, 2021.
Today, Turkey has more than 52 million people who have received their two doses of the vaccine, the minimum requirement for protection against COVID-19. Overall, the country administered more than 138 million doses and more than 22.7 million people now have their third doses in the country of more than 83 million people.
The vaccination program, which was opened up for more people last summer, including children of certain ages, is viewed as successful, but the work is not yet done. “Mass vaccination took us closer to normal (pre-pandemic) life in one year. We should get our missing doses now,” Koca tweeted on the anniversary of the vaccination campaign.
Turkey provides CoronaVac, an inactive vaccine developed by China’s Sinovac and a messenger RNA (mRNA) vaccine developed by Pfizer-BioNTech to its citizens. Turkovac, a locally developed inactive vaccine, has also been available since last month, although in a limited capacity.
Turkey is currently grappling with a surge in COVID-19 cases, a rise evident since last month. After breaking an all-time record in daily cases with 77,722 this week, the country reported more than 75,000 new cases on Thursday while 153 people died of coronavirus on the same day. Experts tie these astronomical figures to omicron, a fast-spreading new variant whose fallout was reflected in weekly case figures, with big cities witnessing sharp jumps in numbers.
Authorities urge the public to get their booster shots and recently opened up appointments for fifth doses for vaccinated people. Jabs remain the only effective form of protection against infection in the absence of pandemic-related restrictions, which were mostly lifted in the summer of 2021, in parallel with the expanding vaccination program.
Though wearing protective masks and adhering to social distancing is still mandatory, experts warn that more people are reluctant to take these self-protection measures, as a pandemic “fatigue” sets in and a misperception that views masks and distancing as unnecessary for those who are vaccinated prevails. Vaccine hesitancy and anti-vaxxers have also damaged efforts to ramp up vaccination.