Vaccine hesitancy hampers Turkey's pandemic response

Source: Xinhua| 2021-09-11 20:45:06|Editor: huaxia
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ISTANBUL, Sept. 11 (Xinhua) -- Vaccine hesitancy is running high in Turkey and disrupting the country's efforts to bring down its new daily cases of COVID-19, which are hovering at over 20,000.

"There are 11.3 million people who haven't got their second dose of vaccine. Furthermore, 6 million citizens haven't received their third booster shots," Health Minister Fahrettin Koca told reporters on Thursday. "We cannot fight against the pandemic like this," he added.

The minister lamented that vaccine hesitancy was hampering Turkey's mass vaccination drive and called on all citizens to unite in the fight against the pandemic.

Turkey reported on Friday nearly 24,000 new cases and 214 deaths. Some 63 percent of people aged over 18 received a two-dose vaccine course, according to official data.

The nation of 83 million people has lowered the age for vaccine eligibility to 12 as schools reopened on Sept. 6 after a long hiatus, but figures are disappointing specialists.

Health experts have announced that 27 percent of teachers are unvaccinated in Turkey, where vaccination is not mandatory. They also warned about a possible rise in daily cases in the coming weeks, which could cause a return to online education.

"Despite all the data available on the effectiveness of vaccines, there are many people who refuse to get vaccinated, causing a threat to the entire population," Guner Sonmez, a professor of medicine, said on his Twitter account.

He warned that unvaccinated people are 32 times more likely to die from COVID-19 and 49 times more likely to be hospitalized than those who are vaccinated.

"But despite the available scientific data, people still believe what Facebook experts write falsely on COVID-19. It is a shame," Sonmez said.

Professor Alper Sener, a member of the Health Ministry's Coronavirus Scientific Advisory Board, said people are avoiding vaccination based on "hearsay about vaccines."

Experts say vaccine reluctance also lingers among younger people, who falsely believe that they won't be affected from infection as much as the elderly.

In the capital city of Ankara, 23-year-old Ahmet Fersan explained to Xinhua why he was against the vaccine.

"I am young and healthy, and I don't want to have something injected in my body whose side effects might be severe," this university student said.

The Health Ministry launched an awareness campaign to encourage more people to get their jabs after it expanded its vaccination program to younger people this summer.

For Osman Ozturk, a specialist from the Istanbul Medical Chamber, those who refuse to get vaccinated are creating a health crisis.

"Actions by anti-vaxxers do nothing but harm public health," said Ozturk. Enditem