Turkey plans to vaccinate 50 million people against COVID-19 by autumn to combat the spread of the coronavirus, Health Minister Fahrettin Koca said on Thursday.
Turkey, with a population of 83 million, has carried out 10.56 million inoculations since Jan. 14 when it began the nationwide rollout of COVID-19 shots developed by China's Sinovac Biotech Ltd.
“Turkey is among the fastest acting in the race for vaccine supplies, in November we made a 50 million dose agreement with manufacturers in China,” Koca said in a live televised statement on the anniversary of the first COVID-19 case recorded in Turkey, reported Anadolu Agency (AA).
"If we can vaccinate 50 million of our population before autumn as we plan, the pandemic will no longer be a heavy burden for us," Koca added.
Koca said that COVID-19 would not become an ordinary disease like flu. However, in 2021 it would no longer be the nightmare that it was in 2020.
There have been 2.82 million recorded coronavirus cases in Turkey and more than 29,000 people have died there due to COVID-19, health ministry data shows.
Koca said 42 of Turkey's provinces were currently assessed to be low and medium-risk areas, while 39 provinces were registered as high or very high-risk areas.
Koca also pointed out that progress was ongoing for a Turkish-developed vaccine. He said that Turkey would start human trials for five more local vaccine candidates and the country would use its own vaccines in the near future.
The number of new cases stood at 14,556 on Wednesday. Ten days ago, Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdoğan announced an easing of measures to curb the pandemic. Erdoğan announced a partial opening of schools, cafes and restaurants on Monday last week. Ankara also eased weekend lockdowns, after the number of new cases fell below 10,000 daily.