Turkey is set to wrap up the vaccination of health care workers, who were among the first to be injected with an inactive coronavirus vaccine from China last week. The next group on the vaccine priority list will be the elderly, specifically those staying in nursing homes. A vaccination drive expected to start later this week will also cover the staff of nursing homes and the disabled staying in care homes run by the Ministry of Family, Labor and Social Services.
Authorities examined the detailed medical histories of each person staying and working in those places and set up special rooms to administer vaccinations inside each nursing and care homes. Under the plan, 87,120 people will get jabs from CoronaVac, imported from China. Among them are 24,200 senior citizens and 30,000 disabled individuals. Theirs will be the only personally delivered vaccines as other citizens are required to visit hospitals or clinics to get inoculated. The next stage in the vaccination drive is expected to be completed in one week.
Over 650,000 health care workers received the first dose of the vaccine in the first three days of the vaccination campaign in the country, which started on Jan. 14. All were administered CoronaVac, developed by the company Sinovac and shipped to Turkey on Dec. 30. A second dose will be administered 28 days later, while those who recovered from COVID-19 will not be vaccinated in four to six months following their recovery.
The Health Ministry drafted a road map long before the arrival of the vaccines and determined that health care workers would be the first to get inoculated, followed by senior citizens, specifically those with at least one chronic disease. People working in critical jobs, like soldiers and police officers, are also prioritized in the vaccination drive.
The coronavirus outbreak, which made its foray in Turkey last March, exposed vulnerable senior citizens to the risk of infection. The elderly have long constituted the majority of coronavirus-related deaths. However, nursing homes were quick to respond to the outbreak and drew the praise of World Health Organization (WHO) officials for their measures, including guidelines issued to each home two months before the first cases were reported. After the outbreak, new admissions were canceled, and residents were not allowed to leave; visitors were also barred from entering the premises. The staff was also subject to a new shift system, reducing the infection risk, and regular coronavirus tests were frequently conducted. Each nursing home also has isolation rooms now, allocated for potential patients before their transfer to hospitals.
Turkey hopes to achieve a high rate of immunity against the virus with the inoculation drive for millions. Health Minister Fahrettin Koca, quoted by media outlets on Friday, said a new shipment of CoronaVac, consisting of 10 million doses, is scheduled to arrive in the country within the next two weeks. Turkey will acquire a total of 50 million doses of the vaccine.
Apart from CoronaVac, authorities seek to acquire other vaccines as well. They are in talks for Russia's Sputnik V vaccine and the shot developed by Pfizer and BioNTech and are working to develop vaccines domestically.
The mass vaccination boosted the morale of health care workers, who have been struggling with the outbreak for months and lost colleagues to the deadly virus. They say the first jabs increased their motivation in the fight against the pandemic.
At Izmir Katip Çelebi University Atatürk Training and Research Hospital, some 2,000 health care workers were vaccinated. Professor Ali Gürbüz, the chief physician of the hospital, told Anadolu Agency (AA) on Saturday that health care workers feel safer while treating patients now.
Dr. Tahsin Murat Tellioğlu, who works in the cardiovascular surgery department of the hospital, said he believes that the start of the vaccination campaign is also the end of “bad days.” “It boosted our morale though we are still cautious and comply with measures. I got my jab on Friday and did not have any side effects,” he said. Nurse Ipek Soner said they have been quite busy since March and now they feel more “healthy.” “Everyone asks if it has side effects, but I had none and suggest everyone get a jab,” she said.
Halenur Şahin, health care services director at Antalya Atatürk State Hospital in the eponymous southern province, said she never hesitated in getting vaccinated. “It was an emotional moment for me and my colleagues. We were crying with joy,” she said.
The hospital’s chief physician, Dr. Ali Vefa Sayraç, said health care workers are very interested in the vaccination.
“We are tired of fighting this disease. Everyone should get vaccinated,” professor Fırat Bektaş, who works in the emergency room of Akdeniz University Hospital, in Antalya.
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