Starting from the week of March 30, 2021, those living in Turkey will be able to choose between two COVID-19 vaccines: the Chinese CoronaVac vaccine developed by Beijing-based biopharmaceutical company Sinovac or Comirnaty, the vaccine jointly developed by U.S. pharmaceutical giant Pfizer and German biotech firm BioNTech. The news comes after Health Minister Fahrettin Koca announced at the beginning of this week that Pfizer–BioNTech vaccines have arrived in the country and were ready to be administered.
As of the end of March, Turkey entered the second stage of its COVID-19 vaccination campaign, beginning immunizations for those aged 60 and above and their spouses, as well as certain individuals who are considered high risk. Among the prioritized group are cancer patients with malign tumors, the morbidly obese, dialysis patients, those with Down syndrome and those receiving immunosuppressive treatment.
The vaccine rollout in Turkey has been relatively quick with the government dividing the whole process into four stages. The first stage, which including critical front-line health care staff, people over the age of 65, the elderly and disabled adults living in crowded places, and those living at nursing homes, was recently concluded. Over 16 million doses of the vaccines have been administered so far.
The Turkish Ministry of Health has also updated its digital hospital and doctor appointment system to accommodate this choice for the coronavirus vaccine. As part of the update, those who enter the Central Physician Appointment System (MHRS) will be asked which vaccine they would prefer to have while selecting the hospital, clinic, day and time of their appointment. Koca said that the online selection option will be live after April 2. Those who have a vaccination appointment before then can call the government health helpline 182 to change their vaccine.
To see if you are prioritized for the vaccine or if your turn has arrived, you can also check the government’s e-Nabız (e-Pulse) app, a digital platform that stores all health records. Those registered on the app will also be able to access their digital vaccination certificates after they receive both doses.
You have the right not to take the vaccines, and you will be asked to sign a consent form before it is administered. The second dose will be administered 28 days after and the personnel vaccinating you will set up your appointment on site.
It is important to note that as the Pfizer–BioNTech vaccine needs to be preserved at minus 70 degrees Celcius (minus 94 degrees Fahrenheit) to remain viable, only select hospitals will offer the shot. If you choose this vaccine, you will be directed to the hospitals.
For the time being, your local general practitioners (GP) or family doctor’s office (sağlık ocağı or aile sağlığı merkezi in Turkish) can only offer the Sinovac vaccine. For those unable to leave their homes, health care personnel continue to offer at-home vaccination services with the Sinovac vaccine.