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Health minister says COVID-19 vaccine will not be mandatory in Turkey

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Turkish Health Minister Fahrettin Koca has said a COVID-19 vaccine will not be mandatory for people in Turkey but that his ministry will try to convince the population to get vaccinated against the coronavirus.

“We discussed this issue [whether the vaccine should be mandatory] at the scientific board. We reached the conclusion that it will not be mandatory but that we would convince our people to receive it. We will explain how each vaccine was produced,” Koca said.

His remarks came during an interview published in the Hürriyet daily on Friday.

Earlier this week Koca announced that Turkey would begin vaccination of healthcare workers and high risk groups in early December as the country battles a soaring number of coronavirus infections.

In another statement last week the minister said Turkey had signed a contract to buy 50 million doses of the COVID-19 vaccine from China’s Sinovac Biotech, which would be delivered in December, January and February.

There are widespread concerns among Turks about the safety of the vaccine developed by the Chinese company. Preliminary trial results have shown that Sinovac’s SVA.O experimental COVID-19 vaccine CoronaVac triggered a quick immune response, but the level of antibodies produced was lower than in people who have recovered from the virus.

Koca said the Sinovac vaccine is an inactivated vaccine and that these types of vaccines are safer and have been widely used. The minister said mRNA vaccines, like the coronavirus vaccine developed by the US pharma giant Pfizer and German biotechnology company BioNTech, have yielded good results in the short term but their middle and long-term effects are not yet known.

Inactivated vaccines consist of virus particles, bacteria or other pathogens that have been grown in cultures and then lose their disease-producing capacity, while mRNA viruses transfers molecules of synthetic RNA into human cells.

In an apparent move the ease public concerns about Sinovac’s vaccine, Koca said after the vaccine’s authorization he would go to a hospital and get vaccinated in front of the cameras.

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