ANKARA – Turkish doctors hailed the launch of the Chinese COVID-19 vaccine drive, saying that with this immunization process, there is finally a light at the end of the tunnel to end the global pandemic.

Turkish health workers on Thursday got first jabs of vaccine as the nation of 83 million population started a mass vaccination program with the Sinovac vaccine developed by China.

Some 790,000 health professionals across the country have received the vaccine as of Monday, according to the Turkish Health Ministry.

Health Minister Fahrettin Koca received the first shot of the vaccine live on television after the approval of the emergency use of the vaccine. He was followed by President Recep Tayyip Erdogan, who received the vaccine at a hospital in Ankara on Thursday.

Erdogan praised the vaccine while trying to raise awareness and acceptance of the inoculation program. He told reporters on Friday that he had been feeling good and will take the second dose of the vaccine in 28 days.

“This is hope for everyone. We experienced difficult times in our struggle against this disease but now we have an effective tool to fight against COVID-19,” Cinar Gule, a virologist at Ankara University hospital, told Xinhua.

The doctor said that after taking the vaccine, she did not feel any side effects at all and that she was completely fine, while her other colleagues had mild side effects such as fatigue or muscle pain.

“I hope that we will be able to reach higher numbers of vaccinations and that our people will be safely inoculated so that we can return to normal as soon as possible,” she added.

More than 2.3 million people have been infected with the coronavirus in Turkey and around 24,000 have died. The country is currently seeing a significant decline in daily infections following stricter restrictions and curfews imposed in November.

After covering 1.1 million healthcare workers, the vaccination program will move on to essential workers and people above 65 years of age.

Serkan Gul, a dentist who is working in one of the COVID-19 contact tracing teams of the Health Ministry, got vaccinated Saturday.

“For the moment, there are very mild side effects, like other vaccines. The launch of the (vaccination) drive is very important for public health,” he told Xinhua.

“I don’t think there is reason to worry about the vaccine, it has been proven to be safe and everyone should get its jab when the time comes,” he noted.

Contact tracing teams, which are responsible for early detection of potential patients, play a key role in home care services. Healthcare workers offer medicines to patients with less severe symptoms and isolate them at home while regularly checking their health condition.

Hamit Ekinci, an emergency doctor who works in a private clinic in Turkey’s biggest province of Diyarbakir, also got his jab.

“Now our hope is the vaccine, we don’t have any other chance to defeat the coronavirus and prevent people from dying,” he told Xinhua.

He also didn’t feel any side effects other than muscle pains in his arm where he got the shot.

The doctor contracted the virus in April and knew from personal experience how serious effects it could have on a patient.

Ekinci said that the vaccine uses the recognized traditional technology of inactivated virus and is easy to use compared to other anti-coronavirus vaccines produced in the world.

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