As the Cabinet prepares to convene on Monday to discuss the state of the COVID-19 pandemic, a top board advising the government on the pandemic recommended lowering the vaccination age limit to 16. Sabah newspaper reported that members of the Coronavirus Scientific Advisory Board of the Health Ministry suggested the lower age in a recent meeting.
The recommendation comes as Turkey plans to resume in-person education in September for millions of students and teachers. The minimum age for the vaccination program is currently 18.
A decision will be made on whether to lower the vaccination age after the Cabinet meeting, which will be presided by President Recep Tayyip Erdoğan.
The board’s recommendation follows the example of other countries that have gradually approved the vaccination of the children as young as 12.
Turkey has administered more than 83.4 million doses of coronavirus vaccines since it began its vaccination program in January. The number of people who have received both doses of the vaccine exceeded 32.8 million on Sunday.
The country's daily coronavirus cases fell below 20,000 for the first time in two weeks on Saturday, though daily fatalities are still above 100. The rise in cases is blamed on the fast-spreading delta variant. Authorities say the majority of those hospitalized for COVID-19 is "unvaccinated," a group whose numbers are slightly below 20 million. Vaccine hesitancy fuelled by conspiracy theories spread on social media by anti-vaxxers remains a concern for health authorities seeking to improve vaccination numbers.
The vaccination is not mandatory in the country, but the government is considering imposing certain restrictions on the unvaccinated. Health Minister Fahrettin Koca announced last week that vaccination should be a priority for "continuing education and business life" and the unvaccinated "should be required to undergo regular polymerase chain reaction (PCR) tests."
Experts say a surge in 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.
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