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According to data from the Ministry of Health, 46,034,689 vaccines against the novel coronavirus (COVID-19) have been administered in Turkey as of June 25. Only 14,752,300 of those over 46 million doses were the second dose.
Even though the ministry lowered the vaccine eligibility age, vaccination rates remained low in some cities. When we look closely at the ministry’s vaccination card, we see that the number of people vaccinated is particularly low in predominantly Kurdish towns.
For example, as of June 25, the number of vaccines administered in DiyarbakÄ±r, home to nearly 2 million people, was 433,403. Only 133,635 of these were the second dose. Similarly, in Mardin, where 854,716 people live, 53,206 second doses were administered to citizens.
Urfa is one of the cities with the lowest vaccination rates. While more than 2 million people live in the southeastern city, the number of people who received the second dose was only 108,971.
In this context, we spoke with the presidents of Urfa Medical Chamber, Mardin Medical Chamber and Diyarbakr Medical Chamber regarding why vaccination rates in Kurdish-majority towns in Turkey are lower than the rest of the country.
“Health care in the mother tongue: the most fundamental right”
DiyarbakÄ±r medical chamber chair Elif Turan refers to data from the Ministry of Health and reminds us that the vaccination rate in the city is 11%. Turan briefly says the following about the problem:
âThe failure of the Department of Health to build public confidence in vaccines since the start of the pandemic and the inability to manage the pandemic transparently has an effect on immunization.
“Since people are not told that ‘these are the protective effects of vaccines and these are the sickening effects’, they are confused.
âThere is no serious anti-vaccination in DiyarbakÄ±r, but there are hesitations. We get so many calls on this; when people see us on the street, they ask, “Should we get the vaccine?” What do you recommend ? When we tell them about it, they are convinced and get vaccinated.
âIn addition, although the official language is Turkish, the mother tongue of the region is Kurdish. The majority of the population aged 65 and over can only speak their mother tongue. People have not been made aware of the importance of vaccination in their mother tongue. If you want someone to do something, you need to talk to them about its importance first.
âFailure to do so has triggered a reluctance to vaccinate people. Health care and access to such care in one’s own mother tongue are the most fundamental rights. However, this is not guaranteed.
“Language, socio-economic conditions, education”
Urfa medical chamber chair Osman Yuksekyayla said 8 percent of the population of Urfa were vaccinated with the second dose. According to the ministry, Urfa ranks 79th out of 81 cities in this regard:
âThe demand for vaccination has recently increased a bit as the number of vaccines has increased and the eligibility age has been lowered to 40 years. But Urfa is still too far behind the Turkish average.
âWhat must be emphasized here is that there is no effort to eliminate the reluctance to vaccinate, rather than the anti-vaccination. There is no vaccination campaign underway. in Urfa The reluctance to vaccinate stems from the vaccination policy of the Ministry of Health It has tired people with postponements like “It will be delivered tomorrow, come tomorrow”.
âEspecially those who live in rural areas could not get appointments, which drastically decreased participation in immunization.
âUrfa is weak in terms of success in university exams and access to healthcare. Although it does not appear at the bottom of the socio-economic and socio-cultural rankings, it still cannot be considered regardless of whether it is among the bottom cities in terms of vaccination participation, there is regional inequality. and the resulting vaccination rate.
âMoreover, when you consider the elderly population, most are Kurds, Arabs and Zazas and they speak Kurdish, Arabic and Zazaki. They don’t know Turkish. But people are not called in their mother tongue to get vaccinated. They have never been told in their mother tongue what the vaccine is. Taken together, we end up with such a rate.
“Insufficient vaccination services in rural areas”
Mardin medical chamber chair Volkan BinbaÅ says vaccination has progressed slowly in Mardin from the start. The rate of people who received both doses is 5.82% while about 10% of the population received the first dose. BinbaÅ says:
âThere is a perception that anti-vaccination is higher among people with low socio-economic status and cultural background and high religious sensitivity; however, there is also reluctance to vaccinate among the middle class and those with a high level of education.
âAnti-vaccination has become a trend. This is the case not only in Turkey, but also in Europe and in several states of the United States. In fact, in some places they distribute money to people to encourage them.
âAnti-vaccination is higher in predominantly Kurdish towns than in western Turkey. One of the reasons is that there are no vaccination campaigns in the mother tongue. The level of culture and education, uneven development, otherness and the low level of awareness leads to anti-vaccination in Mardin.
âIn addition, immunization services are insufficient in rural areas. For example, in one of the villages where I work, we, along with a nurse, went to the homes of people aged 65 and over to give them the second injections. Health Directorate teams apparently administered the first dose, but did not return thereafter; if this had not been done, most of them might not have received the first dose. second dose.
“It falls first to local state health authorities, then to professional medical organizations to eliminate vaccine and vaccine hesitation and to convince people.” (CA / SO / SD)