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Turkey aims to vaccinate 50 million by fall, health minister says

Turkey, a country of 89 million people, has so far administered more than 10.5 million doses of the coronavirus vaccine.
A man waits to receive the COVID-19 vaccine the at Ankara City Hospital in Ankara on March 1,  2021. - The country started mass COVID-19 vaccination on January 14, after the authorities approved the emergency use of the Chinese CoronaVac vaccine. More than 8,857,445 people have been vaccinated so far. (Photo by Adem ALTAN / AFP) (Photo by ADEM ALTAN/AFP via Getty Images)

Turkey is on track to provide COVID-19 vaccines to 50 million people by the fall, Health Minister Fahrettin Koca announced on Thursday, the one-year anniversary of Turkey’s first-recorded coronavirus case. 

“Turkey is among the fastest acting in the race for vaccine supplies,” Koca said in a televised statement. “If we can vaccinate 50 million of our population before autumn as we plan, the pandemic will no longer be a heavy burden for us.” 

The country of 89 million people began its nationwide vaccine drive in mid-January, with the priority given to frontline health care workers. As of Thursday, the country had administered more than 10.5 million doses of the Chinese-made CoronaVac vaccine, with more than 2 million people having received both jabs. 

Koca said Turkey expects to have obtained 105 million doses by the end of May, which would be enough to provide two jabs to everyone over the age of 20.  

Earlier this month, President Recep Tayyip Erdogan announced the start of “a new, controlled normalization” that would include the reopening of restaurants and cafes in some provinces and the resumption of in-person schooling. Weekend lockdowns were lifted in cities determined to be low or medium-risk, but a nationwide weekday curfew from 9:00am to 5:00pm remains in place. Forty-two of Turkey's provinces are currently considered low and medium-risk, while 39 high or very high-risk, Koca said. 

Turkey is now experiencing a surge in new infections, which Koca attributed to the spread of new variants. Health officials announced 14,046 new cases on Thursday, more than twice the average daily caseload of 6,000 in January. 

Since Turkey’s first initial outbreak in March 2020, the Ministry of Health has confirmed over 2.8 million cases of the virus and a death toll of more than 29,000. 

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