Turkey’s efforts in its COVID-19 vaccination program have gained momentum, and Health Minister Fahrettin Koca announced on Wednesday that one in two citizens are now fully vaccinated with two doses. The rate of people vaccinated with two doses in the general population exceeded 50% while their rate among the population aged 18 and over exceeded 68%.
Vaccination with at least two doses is essential for Turkey, where the number of daily cases reached 29,338 on Tuesday, the highest number of daily infections since April 30, according to data from the Ministry of Health. The country also recorded 260 deaths from COVID-19 on Tuesday. The increase in the daily death toll in Turkey since mid-July has been among the largest among countries in Europe and the Middle East, according to global data. The country reopened schools to in-person instruction this month and removed most pandemic measures over the summer as it expanded its immunization schedule. Earlier this month, the government started requiring a negative polymerase chain reaction (PCR) test or proof of vaccination for teachers and also for certain public events, as well as for travel.
The latest figures show that seven of the 81 provinces are now at “low risk” according to the color-coded vaccination card. These are assigned a “blue” color by the Department of Health, which means a vaccination rate of at least 75% with two doses. Twenty others, including the capital Ankara and the third city of Izmir, come close to the blue category. Kırklareli in northwestern Turkey has the highest number, with over 76% inoculation at two doses, ahead of Muğla in the southwest. The eastern provinces, including Şanlıurfa which has the lowest vaccination rate at 41.3%, are considered to be places at risk.
Experts say at least 70% of the total population should receive two doses to achieve mass immunity. This number may increase due to concerns about the fast-spreading delta variant. Professor Deniz Odabaş, a member of the Ministry of Health’s scientific advisory board on the coronavirus, told the Sabah newspaper that Turkey has successfully completed the first stage of vaccinations, referring to the first doses, but noted that a dose is not sufficient against the delta variant. “People shouldn’t postpone their second doses. Especially in places with high vaccination rates, people should not think they would be safe relying on these high rates and should receive their second dose as soon as possible, ”she warned.