Turkish Health Minister Fahrettin Koca said the following in his latest televised speech to the public:
“Currently, Turkey has signed vaccine agreements to secure 100 million doses of Sinovac, 90 million doses of BioNtech and 50 million doses of Sputnik. The agreements signed for vaccines approximately three times the size of our population. "
It has now become the shared opinion of everyone working overtime that the most effective weapon in combating the pandemic is vaccination.
As a matter of fact, countries that have reached high vaccination rates have assuredly begun a return to normalcy.
- So, how will Turkey's vaccination program progress?
- Will the vaccination process, which started well, but slowed down for a while, pick up pace again?
When I met with Health Minister Fahrettin Koca, I asked him questions about these exact issues.
First of all, let me stress that Minister Koca seemed very optimistic.
The reason behind this optimism must be the relief he feels due to the positive results obtained following the intense work to resolve the serious problems that faced Turkey's vaccination program.
In an environment where vaccination wars are raging across the world, this calls for serious efforts, smart moves made at the right time, balanced approaches and strict follow-up measures.
Fahrettin Koca showed that with a "juggler instinct" all these things can be achieved simultaneously.
Turkey started its vaccination program by using the vaccines produced by the Chinese company Sinovac and has come a long way.
However, in recent weeks, problems have arisen with regards the supply of vaccines from China.
The good news is that these problems have been overcome and the Sinovac vaccine is again on its way to Turkey.
According to Minister Koca, as May 1 marked Labor Day in China, new vaccines will begin to arrive in Turkey after this holiday period is over.
As he reiterated in his last statement, Turkey has a 100 million-dose agreement with the Chinese company.
Health Minister Koca has a good rapport with co-founder of the vaccine manufacturer BioNTech Dr. Uğur Şahin.
They frequently talk and exchange text messages.
On April 14, Koca sent his statements about the future of 30 million BioNTech vaccines by the end of June to Şahin on his mobile phone in order to get confirmation.
After confirming these statements, Şahin added, "God willing, we will do it."
Supply of BioNTech vaccine is expected to pick up in June.
A visit by Uğur Şahin to Turkey, that is, his "homeland", to join and support the campaign within the same month is also on the agenda.
The invitation has been sent, and he views it favorably.
Positive news about the BioNTech vaccine is not just limited to June.
These numbers will pick up in August and September, reaching up to 90 million doses, with 14 million more expected in July.
In the table showing the total number of vaccinations shared by the Ministry of Health as of 15:30 yesterday, the situation stood as follows:
Number of first dose vaccinations: 14,500,636
Number of second dose vaccinations: 10,269,701
Total number of vaccinations: 24,770,337
These figures show that we have come a long way in our vaccination push, but that we are still well behind the targeted figures.
In addition to Sinovac and BioeNTech, a 50 million-dose deal has been inked for the Russian-made Sputnik vaccine.
Taking into account the fact that all of the vaccine deals struck by Turkey (Sinovac: 100 million doses, BioNTech: 90 million doses, Sputnik: 50 million doses), the country can hit 240 million doses of vaccine in total, which corresponds to approximately three times the size of Turkey’s population, as Minister Koca had previously said.
All this information indicates that there is no obstacle standing in the way of accelerating Turkey's vaccination program.
During our meeting, Minister of Health Fahrettin Koca shared with me that, with the confidence boost provided by this outlook, "anyone over the age of 18, maybe 16 can be vaccinated over the upcoming summer."
If such a goal can be achieved, it will be possible to vaccinate close to 70 percent of the population within three to four months.
If this can be achieved, Turkey will be able to spend the summer months more comfortably and enter next autumn without the need for new restrictions.