Reaction from Scientific Committee Member Yavuz to the relaxation of measures: The pandemic is not over

Reaction from Scientific Committee Member Yavuz to the relaxation of measures: The pandemic is not over

President of the Turkish Clinical Microbiology and Infection Society (KLİMİK) and a member of the Ministry of Health’s Coronavirus Science Board Prof. Dr. Serap Şimşek Yavuz and Afyon Health Sciences University Faculty of Medicine Head of Infectious Diseases Clinical Microbiology Department Prof. Dr. Neşe Demirtürk made important warnings about the pandemic.


prof. Dr. Serap Şimşek Yavuz, drawing attention to the Omicron variant that has been experienced in the pandemic since November 2021, said, “In the last 3.5 months when Omicron was effective, the number of cases almost doubled the number recorded since the beginning of the epidemic. This was due to the Omicron variant being the fastest and most easily transmitted variant so far. Although less deadly than in the delta, the death toll has also come close to the highest death numbers seen in previous waves in many countries, as the total number of cases has increased so much. In some countries, they even exceeded these numbers. However, extremely low mortality rates were observed in highly vaccinated populations, including reminder doses.


Pointing out that in societies like Hong-Kong that were not sufficiently vaccinated and were not very affected by the first waves, there was a complete disaster with the extremely increasing number of cases and deaths. Dr. Yavuz said, “In general, those who suffer the least from the pandemic and Omicron, apply measures such as very strict distance, mask, isolation, quarantine, and reduce movement throughout the entire process, including the vaccination period, and vaccinate 85% of the society after the vaccine is released, especially at risk. There were countries like New Zealand that also made reminder doses, especially in groups of people,” he said.


prof. Dr. Yavuz, “UIn our country, both the number of cases, the number of deaths and the test positivity rates are currently high. The most important reasons for this are the fact that non-vaccination precautions have been reduced since the Delta wave, the desired levels could not be reached in vaccination both in the first series and in the reminder doses, and there are many people who have had inactivated vaccines that are not effective enough for Omicron. For this reason, what needs to be done now is to complete the primary vaccination and reminder doses with mRNA vaccines, primarily in the elderly and risky groups, and to quickly put the vaccine on the agenda in children. he said.


Stating that he can only create scenarios based on scientific data about the future of the pandemic, Prof. Dr. Yavuz gave the following information:

“Of the existing scenarios, the most positive is that with Omicron reducing its impact, there may be a wave of cases in the spring, where cases will drop, in the summer there will be very few cases, and in the autumn there will be a wave that will result in less cases than Omicron. However, the realization of this positive scenario depends on the emergence of a new variant. Unfortunately, currently, the rate of at least one dose of Covid-19 vaccine has reached 80 percent in rich countries, while it is only 20 percent in low-income countries. In our country, the desired and required rates have not been achieved yet, neither in vaccination nor in reminder doses. Measures such as distance and reducing crowds have been significantly reduced since the beginning of the Delta wave in our country. That’s why there were so many cases and deaths in both Delta and Omicron. Currently, the epidemic still continues both in our country and in the world, so we do not recommend, we did not suggest that the measures we mentioned should be further reduced, as the Association, we have constantly expressed this. In addition, removing the HES code may contribute to the spread of infection by making isolation of the sick person very difficult. In the current situation, individual measures have become very important. We recommend that our citizens have their vaccinations and reminder doses, and continue to use masks in closed or crowded environments where distance cannot be maintained.”


Stating that the institution that can decide whether the pandemic is over is the World Health Organization “due to having sufficient data, experience and knowledge” Prof. Dr. Yavuz ended his words as follows: “WHO says the pandemic is not over. This means that there is still an extraordinary infection and death. The fact that people are bored does not change this fact.”


Congress President Prof. Dr. Neşe Demirtürk stated that the Omicron variant has a milder course than the Delta variant and said, “There are studies showing that it can multiply more quickly and at a higher rate in the upper respiratory tract than in the lower respiratory tract. However, it does not cause a completely mild disease, especially in the elderly and risk groups, and if these people are unvaccinated, it can cause serious illness and death. Those with chronic diseases such as diabetes, hypertension, obese and immunocompromised have been at risk since the beginning of the epidemic. For these people, the Omicron variant can still be lethal. The vast majority of patients who have been hospitalized recently are unvaccinated and have accompanying risk factors. Deaths are also seen in this group. The fact that the number of cases has reached the highest level in the pandemic since the beginning of 2022 is related to the fact that Omicron is very contagious. Parallel to this increasing number, risky patients are hospitalized again and unfortunately they may lose their lives again. Reminder dose rate in Turkey remained at 42 percent. Those who have been vaccinated for two doses look to see if they have been vaccinated anyway. He does not heed the warnings of ‘Be a reminder dose’.


Pointing out that the increasing number of cases in the society and the fact that most of them have a mild illness, Prof. Dr. Demirtürk continued his words as follows:

“One of the important reasons for vaccine hesitancy and anti-vaccination, in my opinion, is the dilemmas experienced in the pre-pandemic period among people who are role models in our country, especially in influenza vaccinations. Lack of adequate vaccination for Covid-19 is one of the causes of Omicron deaths. We have seen that the Omicron variant can escape the immune response and infect the vaccinated. Studies in this direction have started in mRNA vaccines. After the end of the pandemic, it may be necessary to create new vaccination schemes and update vaccines only for risk groups. It is also a good development that molnupiravir has started to be used as a drug treatment in our country. However, we see that there are hesitations on this issue, and that the society, even many physicians, have problems in use due to lack of knowledge. The pandemic has exhausted the whole world in every sense. Pandemic measures are not just about health. Therefore, it must be determined in a way that balances them all. There may be some relaxation; People who are fully vaccinated and do not have additional diseases can be more comfortable at least because they will have a mild disease. However, even if these people have mild symptoms, they should know that there is a risk of infecting someone else who will have a severe illness and should act accordingly. So the mask and distance rule is still very important. But outdoors, the mask may not be worn by paying attention to the distance. Even if they have a mild headache, nasal congestion or runny nose, and fatigue, even if they do not need to be tested, they should definitely wear the mask.”

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