Turkey moves mountains to speed up COVID-19 vaccination campaign

With 20.5 million who received their two doses of the COVID-19 vaccineReaching the 70% goal to achieve mass immunity may seem like a long way off, but Turkey’s fearless healthcare workers are working day and night for the vaccination campaign.

Their efforts have helped the country reach at times a daily immunization count of 1 million, but their work is not finished, especially in the face of reluctance to immunize and due to the fact that people living in remote areas cannot go to hospitals and other vaccination sites.

In eastern regions where vaccination rates are said to be low, teams are climbing mountains to reach more people. Reported reluctance, especially among young people, and the region’s rugged terrain pose challenges for the inoculation campaign. Yet these difficulties did not prevent teams from reaching everywhere, from downtown stores to remote villages far from the nearest clinic.

In Bitlis, vaccination teams battle the sweltering weather and difficult terrain to find those who have not yet received their vaccines. Some try to convince those who are reluctant to get the vaccine while others administer doses to those who cannot afford to go to the nearest town for the vaccine.

Dr Irem Yorulmaz, an official with the Tatvan Health Directorate in the eponymous district of Orientale Province, says their vaccination campaign is taking them everywhere, from shopping malls to the shores of Lake Van, to mountain villages and to rural areas. fields where workers have little time. for vaccination in town.

“Our teams sacrifice their time to reach more people, but we are worried about people who resist vaccination. They don’t want to get vaccinated because of speculative rumors, ”she told The Anadolu Agency (AA), referring to the conspiracy theories of vaccine skeptics. “Certainly there are challenges, but we are ready to do whatever we can if only people are ready to be vaccinated,” she said.

“People believe in the fake news about immunization. In some villages, we met people who thought that vaccines caused infertility. We are trying to combat this misperception, ”said Elif Karaca Ipek, a vaccination nurse.

In Tanin Tanin Mountain in the southeastern province of Uludere District in Şırnak, medical teams climb a 2,500-meter-high mountain to reach nomads tending to their livestock in the highlands. Nomads who spend the summer in the mountains cannot travel to the towns on the outskirts, as they cannot leave their animals alone.

Şırnak Governor Ali Hamza Pehlivan said some 400 health workers are working “on the ground” to reach more people in the province where around 200,000 people have been vaccinated. “We are indebted to the health workers who go everywhere to get vaccinated. We have a population of 540,000 and so far 197,000 people have been vaccinated. We want at least 55% of the population to be vaccinated this week, ”he told Demirören News Agency (DHA).

Pehlivan said there is no shortage of vaccines and people have access to vaccines in most places, noting that they have even set up vaccination points at security checkpoints across the province. “We are bringing vaccines to our citizens instead of taking them to hospitals,” he said.

Vaccination is vital for the country, especially amid concerns over the delta and delta plus variants. Although vaccination is not compulsory, the health ministry is repeatedly calling on the public to get vaccinated, after vaccination was launched for all people over 18 years old last month.

The country lifted almost all restrictions, including curfews, on July 1, in the wake of a drop in cases and after the vaccination campaign accelerated with the arrival of new vaccines from Chinese Sinovac and the German Pfizer-BioNTech. However, media say the ministry may introduce restrictions for those who refrain from getting the vaccine soon. Without vaccination, there are fears that a fourth wave of the pandemic could occur. Any slowdown in the vaccination campaign also worries the public who are still urged by experts to stay away from crowds.

Kastamonu, a northern province, hopes to allay public concerns with a new practice. Companies whose employees are vaccinated receive stickers from the local health directorate stating: “Everyone working in this place is vaccinated”. Prominent stickers are a sign of “encouraging more people to get vaccinated,” provincial health director Dr Yüksel Kutlu told AA.

Professor Seçil Özkan, a member of the Ministry of Health’s scientific advisory board on the coronavirus, said vaccination is the only way to stop the increase in COVID-19 cases, which oscillate between 6,000 and 7,000 per day. Özkan told DHA that educating the public about the safety and effectiveness of vaccines is important and urged the public to ignore fake news on the matter.

Özkan also noted that even though the vaccination was in progress, people should not give up on protective masks and social distancing rules, especially before Qurban Bayram, also known as Eid al-Adha, the party Muslim woman starting Tuesday. Bayram is a higher mobility opportunity, with thousands of people traveling between cities.

“False beliefs that trigger vaccine skepticism can get you infected. Turkey currently has the highly infectious delta variant. If the number of cases increases dramatically, we will have to reinstate the restrictions, ”zkan said.

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