Turkey introduces 4th dose to health workers, priority groups amid COVID-19 resurgence

Turkey’s Health Ministry has announced that health workers and priority groups are now eligible to receive a fourth dose of the COVID-19 vaccine as part of the country’s efforts to combat the resurgence of the disease, Turkish media reported on Monday.

The individuals in these groups who have previously had two doses of the Chinese-produced CoronaVac followed by one dose of the Pfizer/BioNTech vaccine as a booster shot will be able to get one more dose of the Pfizer/BioNTech vaccine.

On July 1 the Health Ministry started to offer a third dose of COVID-19 vaccines for people aged 50 and above and health workers who previously had two doses as part of its vaccination drive.

In the early stages of its vaccination campaign, Turkey used CoronaVac, developed by the Chinese pharmaceutical company Sinovac, to vaccinate people aged 65 and above as well as health professionals.

The Chinese vaccine was later found to be less effective against the coronavirus, and Turkish health authorities decided to inoculate these individuals with an mRNA vaccine, namely the Pfizer/BioNTech vaccine, as a booster shot.

Although a few countries are starting to offer a third dose of the vaccine to vulnerable groups, Turkey is the first country to offer a fourth dose.

Turkey also lowered the duration for people who recovered from the disease to be vaccinated from three months to one month.

Turkey reported 18,847 cases of COVID-19 on Sunday, 154 deaths and 14,426 recoveries.

According to the Health Ministry, to date, some 71 percent of the country’s total population has received one dose, and 53 percent has received two doses.

RKI: Turkey a high-risk country

Meanwhile, Germany has designated Turkey as a “high risk area” due to rising COVID-19 infections, Deutsche Well Turkish service reported on Monday, citing the Robert Koch Institute (RKI), the German federal government agency for disease control and prevention.

Due to this designation, travelers from Turkey to Germany will be required to document their vaccination status with any of the BioNTech/Pfizer, Moderna, AstraZeneca or Johnson & Johnson vaccines or previous recovery from COVID-19 or be quarantined at home for 10 days. If they have a negative PCR test after five days, they will be exempted from the remaining five days of quarantine.

Everyone who travels from Turkey to Germany will have to fill out a digital form, informing the German authorities of their travel beforehand.

Inoculated individuals and those who failed to document their previous recovery from the disease will be required to submit a negative PCR test.

Also, the German Foreign Ministry updated its warnings regarding travel to Turkey, urging its citizens avoid nonessential or tourist travel to Turkey as of August 17 with an emphasis on the surging infections in recent weeks in Turkey.

Family physicians on strike

Turkey’s family physicians on Monday went on strike, organized by the Federation of Family Physician Associations (AHEF), to protest a recent regulation from the health ministry introducing disciplinary measures against doctors who go public about the work they do.

Numbering more than 24,000, family physicians in Turkey work within the framework of a contract with the ministry. They provide COVID-19 vaccinations in addition to their ordinary healthcare services.

Family physicians argue that the government is taking punitive actions against them instead of compensating them for their increased workload during the pandemic.

AHEF said it has received 2,773 letters of resignation in protest of the regulation, while not giving an exact figure for the number of doctors who went on strike.

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