ANKARA: Turkish citizens aged between 40 and 50 will begin getting COVID-19 jabs as part of the country’s vaccination campaign, launched in mid-January.
The move comes as the US Center for Disease Control and Prevention eased travel recommendations for more than 110 countries and territories, including Turkey.
Those aged 45 to 50 will begin receiving their first dose on June 10, whereas citizens in the 40 to 45 group will get their jabs by June 14.
The authorities also began vaccinating musicians, film and TV series staff as well as university employees without an age limit in a bid to re-energize the country’s cultural activities and prepare for face-to-face education in September.
Tens of thousands of music industry workers have lost their jobs since March 2020, and concerts are still banned under social distancing measures.
From next week, the country will also inoculate volunteers for the phase 3 human trials of a locally developed COVID-19 vaccine candidate.
According to a survey conducted by Infakto Research Workshop and Habitat Association, one-third of Turkish youth are against vaccination. Turkish authorities are considering special restrictions for those refusing to get vaccinated.
“Vaccine skepticism is relatively low in Turkey and is getting lesser with the public awareness campaigns. It recently appeared that Russia-sponsored misinformation campaigns on social media have been fuelling this trend all around the world,” Prof. Guner Sonmez, a radiologist from Uskudar University in Istanbul, told Arab News.
Several social media influencers recently confessed that they received payment from a Russian-linked company to discredit the Pfizer vaccine in favor of its own Sputnik V jab.
Several anti-vaccine hashtags have become trending topics on Turkish Twitter in recent weeks.
The number of single-day COVID-19 deaths recently fell below 100. On June 9, the country confirmed 6,454 new coronavirus cases and 87 deaths from COVID-19.
So far, Turkey has administered over 31.75 million vaccines, with about 18.5 million people getting their first jab and 13.5 million receiving both doses.
Germany on Friday removed Turkey from the list of high-risk countries. But the country remains listed in the orange category on the EU’s risk scale.
Travelers from Turkey will be allowed to enter European countries if they can prove their COVID-19 immunity either through vaccination documents or recovery from the disease starting by July 1.
As there is a shortage of Chinese Sinovac vaccines, citizens are mainly getting the Pfizer-BioNTech vaccine. Ugur Sahin, the co-founder and CEO of Germany-based BioNTech, is expected to visit Turkey, his home country, at the end of June.
If the country receives 30 million doses of Pfizer-BioNTech jabs at the end of the month, people as young as 20 can be vaccinated as well.
Meanwhile, a Turkish citizen recently attracted fame after his thank-you letter to Sinovac and the accompanying 50 Turkish liras ($6) he sent to the company to show his gratitude for the vaccine was revealed by the international media.
The accelerated vaccination program will also help the country to prevent another lost tourism season, with the Turkish economy relying heavily on tourists to bring in foreign currency revenue that helps to recover its current account deficit.
Last month, two big events that were key to attracting tourists’ cash were lost due to the high rate of daily infections. Formula One canceled the Turkish Grand Prix scheduled for June and the UEFA Champions League final was relocated from Turkey to Portugal.
Russia and Turkey continue diplomatic meetings to consider resuming full-scale air traffic between the two countries. A lost season would cost Turkey 500,000 Russian tourists in the summer.
Tourism workers have also been prioritized to receive vaccinations, while thousands of accommodation sites, restaurants, cafes, boats and tour vehicles have been granted “Safe Tourism Certificates” to instill trust in the incoming tourists.
However, Moscow recently extended its flight ban to Turkey until June 21, which is expected to cost the tourism industry $500 million in June alone, according to Turkish tourism operators.
“Israel reached herd immunity threshold when 62 percent of its citizens were fully vaccinated. If we receive the promised batch of vaccines by the end of this month, it can also help the tourism season to recover and life will return to normal by September,” Sonmez said.
He added: “A higher percentage of vaccinations will also help us against mutated virus strains. The authorities recently allowed Family Health Centres that are set up in each district to administer the vaccines. That will help people who have concerns or accessibility problems to go to the hospitals.”