Turkish Health Minister Fahrettin Koca explained how the country is planning to vaccinate its citizens against the novel coronavirus.

Turkish Health Minister Fahrettin Koca shared the basic framework of the Covid-19 vaccination program on Thursday, saying that healthcare professionals would be the first group to be vaccinated, following coronavirus patients who are above 65 years of age. 

Koca said Turkey has a robust vaccination infrastructure, which continued to function even at the peak of the pandemic as the country successfully completed 98 percent of childhood vaccinations from the beginning of the year until now. 

The Turkish Health Ministry is currently laying out a plan to utilise hospitals, family health centres, community health centres, pharmacies and other health institutions for the vaccination process.

The first batch of Chinese vaccine Sinovac is expected to arrive in Turkey in three to four days. It will be trial tested for two weeks in the laboratories of the Turkey Pharmaceuticals and Medical Devices Agency, a government-run institution with the highest sanitary authority in terms of medical safety on health products, including medicines and vaccines. 

Since the Turkish government is open to buying Covid-19 vaccines produced by other countries, the testing process will be required for all the vaccine candidates, including the much-acclaimed one developed by Pfizer.

Turkey has approved the phase 3 trials of both Pfizer and Sinovac vaccines in order to see how effective and safe both the candidates are for Turkish citizens. 

The first arriving order will have a capacity of 40 million doses for the months of December and January.

Koca said the government is in the middle of negotiating with several companies that are offering vaccine candidates in line with the Turkish health standards.

The vaccine developed by Turkish scientists, Koca said, will also be considered for the government's program. 

"Our vaccine, which is one of the leading vaccines developed by our own scientists, is within the knowledge of the public that Phase 1 studies in human applications are about to be completed,” he said. 

“If the studies give positive results, we hope to be able to switch to Phase 3 and the widespread application phase in April.”

The Chinese vaccine will be taken in two doses within a 14 or 21-day interval.

Koca also added that the vaccine will be given to people free of charge within the scope of an upcoming vaccination campaign.

Since people worldwide are concerned about the safety of Covid-19 vaccines, Koca said the Health Ministry is monitoring the phase 3 trial and its result will come within 10 days. 

‘We do not think the vaccine is mandatory for now’

The minister said the government hasn't yet declared the Covid-19 vaccination as mandatory for the people.  

"We do not think that the vaccine is mandatory for now. We mostly aim to make mass vaccination widespread by convincing our citizens, ” he added.

Koca pointed out that the number of people infected with the virus has reached 69 million in the world and continues to increase, and more than 1.5 million people have died due to Covid-19.

"We have delayed the entry (of Covid-19) to our country with the measures we have taken including closing our borders and we have not been able to escape this course even though we had a successful period in the beginning,” he said.

Koca underlined the importance of prevention, diagnosis, follow-up and treatment, according to the guidelines shared by scientists.

Those who are vaccinated in the coming days, Koca said, will be updated with further information and dos and don'ts through the HES, a system for tracking coronavirus data within the Turkish society. 

Koca said that around 5,000 doses were already given to nearly 3,700 volunteers and there were no significant side effects noticed. The interim evaluation regarding its effectiveness would be shared within a week and 10 days, he said. 

Source: TRTWorld and agencies