In Turkey, children aged 15 and above, as well as children aged 12 and up with chronic illnesses, are now eligible for COVID-19 vaccination, authorities announced on Monday.
Turkey had last lowered the vaccine eligibility age to 18 in a bid to boost its vaccination program in which more than 83.6 million doses were administered.
The country also changed the period for the first dose of the vaccine for people who tested positive for the coronavirus. They will now be able to get their first dose a month after they test positive, instead of three months later.
Under new rules, a fourth dose will be available for people vaccinated with their third dose, 21 days after their last vaccination. Health Minister Fahrettin Koca later clarified that only those traveling abroad will be required to have received a fourth dose. As some countries require two doses of the Pfizer-BioNTech vaccine for entry, people who have received two doses of the Chinese Sinovac and one dose of the Pfizer-BioNTech jab, will be able to get a second dose of the latter vaccine as a fourth dose, according to the Health Ministry.
“No additional doses are required for people who had their two doses of messenger RNA (mrNA) vaccine or three doses of inactive vaccine,” Koca tweeted, referring to the two vaccines available in the country.
Vaccination is vital for the country, especially amid concerns about the delta and delta plus variants. Though vaccination is not mandatory, the Health Ministry repeatedly appeals to the public to have their jabs.
The country lifted almost all restrictions, including curfews, on July 1, after a decline in cases thanks to the accelerated vaccination campaign with the arrival of more vaccines from China’s Sinovac and Germany’s Pfizer-BioNTech. Yet, vaccine hesitancy took hold in some provinces and certain age groups. Without vaccination, there are fears of a fourth wave of the pandemic occurring. Any slowdown in the vaccination drive also worries the public, who experts still urge to stay away from crowds.
The rise in daily COVID-19 cases, which fell below 19,000 on Sunday after fluctuating around and above 20,000 for a long time, is blamed on the unvaccinated. Professor Ata Nevzat Yalçın, an infectious diseases expert at Akdeniz University of Antalya, said that in their hospital 90% of COVID-19 patients in intensive care were people who did not receive their vaccines. The unvaccinated also make up 40% of patients hospitalized for COVID-19 at the university’s hospital, he told Demirören News Agency (DHA) Monday.
Yalçın said that the unvaccinated were unable to gain sufficient immunity against the coronavirus and suffered from a severe bout of the illness. “The vaccines prevent people from ending up at intensive care and/or hospitalization,” Yalçın said. “The rate of people with both doses of vaccine is still around 37%. This number should exceed 60%. We need a faster vaccination, especially before the autumn, when respiratory infection cases increases,” Yalçın said. Yalçın also said that the three doses of vaccination were good for protecting people for nine months but more doses could be required after that period.