Turkey seeks to achieve herd immunity by fall after massive vaccination program

Within the scope of its massive vaccination program, Turkey aims to achieve herd immunity against COVID-19 by the fall this year, the daily Hürriyet reported on Tuesday, May 25.

According to Health Ministry’s data, around 20 million people across the country have gained immunity against the virus, as 12 million of them have been fully inoculated, while the rest of them have developed antibodies naturally after recovering from the virus.

Based on a deal recently made between Turkey’s Health Ministry and the U.S. Pfizer pharmaceutical giant Pfizer and its German partner BioNTech, Ankara is rooting to vaccinate 30 million more people with a dose of BioNTech vaccines as of June.

The first dose of the BioNTech vaccine is highly protective against the coronavirus, and a vaccinated person will develop antibodies within 10 to 14 days, officials said.

Based on these calculations, officials estimate that some 50 million people will become immune, and the country will experience herd immunity against the virus by the second half of July.

Vaccination alone is not the only option to fight against the COVID-19 until fall, but we need to keep the daily coronavirus cases below 15,000, officials noted.

According to data, the rate of the positive COVID-19 cases, which was around 20 percent last winter, has declined to 4 percent, while the number of the daily coronavirus cases nosedived from 600,000 to 120,000 in that period.

These numbers show that the burden of the virus on the public has eased to some extent, experts said. “We have to control this decrease with measures and keep the daily numbers below 15,000,” they added.

In a bid to reach the intended target by fall, Turkey is preparing to receive 30 million doses of BioNTech vaccines.

European Medicines Agency (EMEA) recently announced that BioNTech vaccines could be stored for a month in cabinets maintaining a temperature of 2 to 4 degrees Celsius.

There are around 1,500 public and private hospitals with a capacity to store the vaccines under the conditions suggested by EMEA. The ministry has also started a new project by including primary care physicians for them to be able to administer vaccine doses to the public efficiently.

Based on this, the Aegean province of Aydın has been selected as a pilot area.

“The primary care physicians in Aydın will start vaccinating people,” Hacı Yusuf Eryazğan, the deputy head of the Federation of the Primary Care Physicians, told daily Hürriyet.

According to official figures, Turkey has administered over 28.06 million doses of the COVID-19 vaccine since the launch of a mass vaccination campaign on Jan. 14.

As of May 24, more than 16.05 million people have received their first doses, while over 12 million have been fully vaccinated, the Health Ministry said.

Turkey started a gradual normalization process on May 17 after a 17-day full nationwide lockdown, which significantly helped in bringing the number of infections down.

The country has enforced weeknight curfews from 9 p.m. to 5 a.m. and a full lockdown on weekends until June 1.

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