A member of the Health Ministry’s Coronavirus Scientific Advisory Board expressed concern over figures showing that Turkey’s COVID-19 patients now constituted younger people as well.
Professor Tevfik Özlü, who also serves as an academic at the faculty of medicine at Karadeniz Technical University (KTÜ), said the number of patients in the age bracket of 25-35 being hospitalized was higher.
Turkey witnessed a surge in the number of COVID-19 cases in recent weeks, amid a normalization process and despite its widespread vaccination program. The high numbers are blamed on the fast-spreading delta variant, people reluctant to get vaccinated and those who ditch mask and social distancing rules.
Özlü says all patients admitted to their hospital in the northern province of Trabzon for the coronavirus were either unvaccinated or had received one dose only.
“We have no patients infected with the coronavirus if they were administered both of their COVID-19 vaccine doses,” he said.
The professor noted that the hospitals used to be full of elderly COVID-19 patients together with infected health care workers in the past.
Health care workers were the first to receive their jabs when the vaccination program started in January. The program continued with the vaccination of senior citizens and earlier this summer, the country expanded it to include all people aged 18 and above.
“We have no infected health care workers hospitalized. This is because all of them are vaccinated. Even if they get infected, they recover with a mild case of the disease. Elderly people, if they had their third dose and were infected, also do not need hospitalization,” he told Ihlas News Agency (IHA) Friday.
He said the vaccine is very efficient and safe, and it is the only weapon Turkey has against the pandemic. “We lose more than 100 people to the coronavirus every day. We have to stop this,” he said.
On the declining age of patients, Özlü linked it to reluctance among the younger people to get their jabs. “Even the healthiest young people, people without any chronic illness, are infected. So, vaccination is a must,” he said.
He lamented that the vaccination rate in the country was still not sufficient. “The rate of people with both doses of vaccine and immunity against the virus is still around 35%. We have to raise it to somewhere around 75%,” he stressed.
Turkey relies on China’s CoronaVac and Germany’s Pfizer-BioNTech vaccines, but it is also striving to develop its own vaccines. The inactive vaccine Turkovac is expected to be made available to the public later this year, while a virus-like particle (VLP) vaccine will likely be next.
Minister of Industry and Technology Mustafa Varank, a volunteer in trials of the VLP vaccine, announced Friday that the jab’s Phase 2 trials had concluded and no serious side effects or other problems were found during the stage. He said the last phase is likely to be launched next month.
The vaccine is one of its kind for Turkey where scientists are racing against time to develop inactive, adenovirus and other types of COVID-19 vaccines. It was the fourth vaccine to be included in a list of World Health Organization (WHO) for vaccine candidates on March 30.
A VLP vaccine works by mimicking the coronavirus, in a way that does not cause infection. Currently, there are four VLP vaccine candidates in the world. The Turkish jab differs from the others by using the four structural proteins of the virus as a vaccine antigen, according to scientists.
The vaccine project is led by a professor couple, Mayda Gürsel from Middle East Technical University (METU) and her husband Ihsan Gürsel of Bilkent University. It is endorsed by the COVID-19 Turkey Platform, an initiative to develop drugs and vaccines against the coronavirus set up by the Scientific and Technological Research Council of Turkey (TÜBITAK).
Mustafa Varank said in a written statement Friday that locally-made VLP vaccines had “great potential” and urged the public to sign up to volunteer for Phase 3 trials.
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