Turkey ramping up ‘vaccine diplomacy,’ says health minister

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Turkey has ramped up “vaccine diplomacy” and the work on developing the country’s own injection against COVID-19 is making progress, Health Minister Fahrettin Koca has said, as the number of daily infections continues to rise.

“We have speeded up the vaccine diplomacy for the injections, including [the Chinese] Sinovac, Pfizer/BioNTech and [the Russian] Sputnik V,” the minister told the daily Hürriyet.

Earlier this week, Koca informed that a total of 26 million doses of the vaccine developed by the Chinese pharmaceuticals company Sinovac and 4.5 million doses of the Pfizer/BioNTech jab have already arrived in Turkey.

At least 30 million BioNTech jabs will be delivered to Turkey by June, Koca said, adding that negotiations continue, and the number of vaccines might be even larger.

The country is also exploring possibilities for the Russian jab, including the production of the vaccine in Turkey.

Turkey launched its inoculation drive on Jan. 14 with the Chinese vaccine, but it recently started to administer the Pzifer/BioNTech injection.

To date, more than 19.5 million doses of the COVID-19 vaccine have been administered. Nearly 11.8 million have received the first dose and over 7.7 million people have been administered both doses.

“We are moving to the phase 3 in work to develop the indigenous vaccine. This process could be finalized within two to three weeks,” Koca told the daily, noting that this jab could start to be administered in September.

Vaccine hesitancy

The minister recalled that some 24 percent of people aged over 65 has not received their shots, skipping their vaccination appointments.

Teams, led by family physicians, will be set up to find out why people are not going to the appointments, Koca said.

The teams will pay home visits to understand why people are avoiding the vaccine and try to convince and encourage them to get the shot, according to the minister.
The minister dismissed claims that the jabs go wasted when people miss their appointments.
“The claims that the vaccines go into trash bins are not true. We are aware of how precious each dose of the vaccine is and are making our [vaccination] planning accordingly,” Koca wrote on Twitter on April 15.
Koca reiterated that Turkey aims to inoculate all people aged over 40 by the end of June.

The government’s effort to vaccinate as many people as they can comes at a time when the number of daily virus cases continues to rise. Since April 6, the daily infections have been hovering at around and above 50,000, climbing to a record 62,797 new cases on April 14.

However, Koca voiced optimism that the measures recently announced for the holy month of Ramadan will help the country bring the cases and fatalities down in June.

“We are expecting a visible decline in those numbers due to the restrictions,” the minister said.

President Recep Tayyip Erdoğan announced on April 13 a partial lockdown during the first two weeks of Ramadan to curb COVID-19 infections.

Echoing Erdoğan’s warning, Koca said if those restrictions fail to reduce the coronavirus cases, even harsher measures may have to be introduced in June.

Hurriyet Daily News

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