Some 80%-90% of COVID-19 cases and deaths in Turkey are among people who were never vaccinated or received just one jab, the country’s health minister said Thursday.
Speaking after a meeting of the country’s Coronavirus Scientific Advisory Board, Fahrettin Koca stressed the need for people to get fully vaccinated to avoid contracting the virus, being admitted to the hospital, or dying.
Koca said 81% of the nearly 500,000 active COVID-19 cases in Turkey are among people who were not fully vaccinated.
He added that around 90% of those who are hospitalized for the virus were not fully vaccinated and 90% of those who died were either unvaccinated or did not get both doses of a two-shot vaccine.
- Most cases aged 15-45
Koca said most cases now are aged 15-45, and the number of cases in the country has risen.
"Today, more than 78% of our population aged 18 and over has been vaccinated with a single dose and more than 60% with two doses," he said.
He pointed out that the issue of restrictions had not been placed on the agenda at the meeting.
As in-person classes resume, he said 88% of teachers and school employees have had at least one vaccine dose and 75% have had both doses.
"In the new period, the pandemic will not be the reason for the closure of schools because now we have the vaccine," he said.
The minister also called on the parents of students to pay utmost attention to the protective measures.
"Each of the parents should be vaccinated without delay, by observing the measures to protect their child and their child's classmates."
- 'Schools should be last places to be closed'
Mahmut Ozer, Turkey’s national education minister, who also attended the board meeting, stressed that schools should be the last places to be closed due to the pandemic.
No matter how successful distance education may be, Ozer said it cannot replace face-to-face education.
Stressing that face-to-face education has become a necessity rather than a choice, he said it is essential for children to receive an education with their friends in a classroom environment.
The Education Ministry takes the necessary steps to maintain face-to-face education such as providing schools with masks, disinfectants and cleaning materials, he added.
He also called on all parents, teachers and administrative staff to strictly follow the pandemic measures to prevent the further closure of schools.
Erol Ozvar, head of the Council of Higher Education, who also attended the meeting, said academic activities have continued in Turkey without interruption, whether in person or online, for one-and-a-half years since the pandemic appeared in Turkey.
In addition to the opportunity to offer face-to-face courses, universities have the authority to conduct 40% of the courses online with the decision of the Council of Higher Education, Ozvar said.
- Turkey's fight against pandemic
Koca highlighted that there is no country other than Germany which administered more vaccine jabs than Turkey among the European countries. He added that "in two to three weeks," Turkey will surpass Germany's number of vaccine doses.
Turkey has administered more than 95.56 million doses of COVID-19 vaccines since launching a mass immunization campaign in January, according to official figures released Thursday.
Over 48.85 million people have gotten their first vaccine dose, while more than 37.64 million are fully vaccinated, the Health Ministry said.
Turkey has also given third booster shots to over 8.76 million people.
At least 78.7% of the country's adult population has received at least one dose of a two-shot vaccine.
The ministry also reported 23,496 new coronavirus cases while 283 more people died from the disease in the past 24 hours.
Since December 2019, the pandemic has claimed over 4.54 million lives in 192 countries and regions, with more than 218 million cases reported worldwide, according to US-based Johns Hopkins University.