Turkey lowered the COVID-19 vaccination eligibility age to 35 on Wednesday. Meanwhile, the country has also administered over 37 million doses of COVID-19 vaccines since it launched a mass vaccination campaign in mid-January.
More than 23 million people have received their first doses, while over 14 million have been fully vaccinated, showed the Health Ministry count.
The country launched its vaccination campaign in January 2021 with health care workers. The oldest citizens were prioritized in the drive, with the age limit for eligibility gradually dropping with the arrival of new batches of doses. Currently, people at the age of 40 and above can book vaccine appointments. So far, more than 37 million doses of vaccines were administered, and this number includes 13.5 million people who had their two doses of vaccine. The country uses the inactive vaccine developed by China’s Sinovac as well as Pfizer-BioNTech’s Messenger RNA (mRNA) vaccine. A deal was also made with Russia for imports of the Sputnik V vaccine and locally made vaccines are expected to be available later this year.
Administering 32 million doses in less than six months is no small feat for a country of more than 83 million people, and Turkey once ranked sixth in the world in coronavirus vaccination. Yet, the drive slowed down a little with delays in the shipment of vaccines. This month, more Pfizer-BioNTech vaccines are set to arrive in the country. Vaccine hesitancy among the public also hurts the process. Authorities seek to promote vaccination among the wider masses and are considering bringing in restrictions for those who do not have their jabs, though inoculation is not mandatory in the country.
Another challenge for them is the endurance of Pfizer-BioNTech vaccines, which can easily spoil if exposed to high temperatures. Koca on Friday warned that every Pfizer-BioNTech vaccine flask contained six doses of vaccine and each dose had to be used within six hours.
It also confirmed 6,221 new coronavirus cases, including 548 symptomatic patients, across the country in the last 24 hours. The number of new cases on Tuesday was 5,955.
Turkey's overall case tally is now over 5.34 million, while the nationwide death toll has reached 48,950 with 71 new fatalities.
As many as 4,632 more patients won the battle against the virus, raising the total number of recoveries past 5.21 million.
Over 57.6 million coronavirus tests have been done to date.
The latest figures put the number of COVID-19 patients in critical condition at 881.
To fight the spread of the virus, Turkey currently has a curfew from 10 p.m. to 5 a.m. on Monday to Saturday and a full lockdown on Sundays.
Since December 2019, the pandemic has claimed over 3.82 million lives in 192 countries and regions, with more than 176.72 million cases reported worldwide, according to the U.S.-based Johns Hopkins University.