The total number of doses administered in Turkey’s vaccination program against coronavirus surpassed 75 million on Friday, marking another milestone for the country in its struggle against the pandemic since March 2020.
The country's vaccination program began in January with health care workers and after a slow start, gained momentum earlier this summer. In a few weeks, the country managed to open vaccines to all age groups 18 and above. Figures released by the Health Ministry show that more than 41 million people have received their first doses while more than 28 million people are fully vaccinated. Some 5.3 million people received their “booster” shots or third dose.
The vaccination program is essential to curb the pandemic according to authorities. Through jabs, the country aims to reach a mass immunity level of at least 70%. With the current pace, it is not a far-fetched goal. Nevertheless, vaccine hesitancy, prevailing especially in eastern regions, threatens the country’s gains against the pandemic. The Health Ministry has deployed mobile crews in several provinces with low vaccination rates, going door to door to people who refused vaccination, to convince them and give them jabs on site.
Inoculation is not mandatory in the country but the government is considering imposing certain restrictions on the unvaccinated. Health Minister Fahrettin Koca had announced Thursday that they may ask for regular polymerase chain reaction (PCR) tests from people without two doses of vaccine every week, in order to greenlight their travel in buses and planes and attendance to events in seated venues, like cinemas and concert halls.
Daily coronavirus cases in Turkey fluctuated around 24,000 this week. Experts say a surge in the cases is inevitable, as people tended to ditch rules like mandatory masks and social distancing after a normalization process began on July 1, lifting almost all pandemic-related restrictions, including curfews.
The fast-spreading delta variant is also a culprit in this new wave of infections. Experts are calling on the public to ensure that they receive their two doses of vaccine against coronavirus in time, describing the inoculation as key for success in defeating the spread of the delta variant.
“We see a growth in delta cases although it is slow. We have to achieve adequate immunity by vaccination, before the autumn sets in,” professor Nurettin Yiyit, a member of the Health Ministry’s Coronavirus Scientific Advisory Board, said last month. Every autumn, more people spend time indoors as temperatures drop, which heightens the risk of the disease, especially in places that are not properly ventilated.
After a lull last summer, Turkey saw a rise in the daily cases in autumn 2020, forcing authorities to impose restrictions. The number of delta cases is still low in Turkey according to the latest figures. The country also faces a threat from delta plus cases. The Health Ministry announced the first delta plus cases last month.