For almost two years now, Turkish Health Minister Fahrettin Koca has been right at the center of the pandemic-based agenda.
His mission is one of heavy burdens and responsibilities within a field that brings with it the very palpable risk of exhaustion and burnout.
During this period, the health ministers of many states were forced to resign because they failed to meet the nation’s expectations.
In Turkey, however, in confidence-exuding studies, Minister Koca always came out on top, and is continuing to do so.
Based on these studies, in a country like Turkey where political polarization is stark, it isn’t difficult to anticipate that most thank their lucky stars that someone like Fahrettin Koca was at the helm of the Ministry of Health.
Every now and then, I meet with Minister Koca to discuss an array of topics, including the fight against the pandemic.
During these meetings, I ask questions that large factions of the public are yearning to have answered on the trajectory of the pandemic, the burden of hospitals, vaccinations, and whether restrictions will be implemented once more.
In our latest conversation, new topics popped up on our agenda.
But, first, let me summarize what he had to say about the pandemic.
Before year’s end, Turkovac will be ready
There is no doubt that Turkey has put on a worthy performance when it came to vaccinating its citizens.
This is one of the main reasons for the increase in economic vitality, the upward trend in growth figures and the surge in exports.
Even though Turkey is a developing country, it hasn’t lagged behind developed countries in the vaccination process against COVID-19.
According to Minister Koca, Turkey has administered 118 million vaccinations so far nationwide, and ranks eighth in the world after China, India, Brazil, Japan, Mexico, and Indonesia with the number of vaccinations given.
These days, Koca spends a significant part of his time on developments related to Turkey's homegrown vaccine Türkovac.
The efforts carried out on Phase-3 studies have reached their final stage.
A second study is also being conducted to compare the efficacy of Sinovac and Türkovac.
As of Monday evening, when we had our conversation, the number of volunteers had reached 2600, and it was expected to reach the necessary 3,000 threshold by the end of the week.
Now, let me enlighten you on what else Koca had to say:
-Before year’s end, Turkovac will be given emergency production approval and start to be administered.
-Small-scale production has been completed. We’re waiting for urgent-use approval for large-scale production. Many countries, including Indonesia, Malaysia, are eyeing this vaccine as they find it safe.
Turkey will be among the first countries to use the COVID pill
Furthermore, I questioned Koca on the current burdens hospitals had to bear; here’s what he had to say:
For the past ten weeks, the burdens of hospitals have been stable. In fact, within the past week, a drop has been recorded in their occupancy rates.
“We aren’t considering any kind of lockdown, including the shuttering of schools, because we have the vaccine now.”
I also asked him when we could expect the coronavirus to transform into the seasonal flu:
“With the Covid pill, we expect the pandemic to become seasonal flu the following year.”
“We are working hard to get the Covid pill for our citizens. After the vaccine, we want Turkey to be one of the first countries to use the pill.”
Glad tidings for doctors with a specialty
Koca also mentioned that Turkey was in pursuit of new ways to lessen the burden of health workers and doctors, telling us extensively of his plans.
However, because final decisions have not yet been made, he wanted them to remain off the record.
However, what I can tell you is that very soon we may have some glad tidings for specialty training and personal rights of specialist doctors.