Turkey's COVID-19 vaccination drive continues under accusations of favouritism

University hospitals in Turkey’s capital have given vaccinations to at least 30 people who shouldn’t have received their shots yet as they are not in priority groups, according to the chairman of a healthcare workers’ union in Ankara.

SES Ankara Chairman Kubilay Yalçınkaya told daily BirGün on Saturday that Ankara University’s faculty of medicine, one of the designated vaccination providers in the capital, gave vaccinations to at least 30 non-priority persons last week.

“These people were not healthcare workers, nor were they above the age of 85,” Yalçınkaya said.

Similarly, non-healthcare workers and persons younger than 85 have received coronavirus vaccinations in Hacettepe University’s faculty of medicine, the union chairman said.

Some of the people who received the shots were family members of university and hospital administrators, Yalçınkaya said.

An employee of Ankara University’s faculty of medicine told BirGün that there was at least one housewife and one teacher who were younger than 65 among those who received shots in the university’s research hospital.

Ankara Chamber of Medicine Chairman Ali Karakoç said Hacettepe University administrators had included themselves in priority lists. According to Karakoç, at least 58 healthcare workers in the Turkish capital have been unable to access vaccines.

On Friday, Ankara’s former mayor Melih Gökçek said in a tweet that he (72) and his wife (66) had received vaccinations. Upon outrage among Turkish social media users, Gökçek said his family had qualified because they lived with his mother-in-law, who is 105 years old.

Health Minister Fahrettin Koca had said the ministry planned to complete the vaccination of healthcare workers last week, and that frontline personnel who were unable to get vaccinated could do so at a later date if they wished.

Following healthcare professionals, Turkey will be vaccinating the elderly first, to be followed by priority staff in the military and security services, teachers, food preparation workers, and transport workers, according to the national deployment plan.

Turkey recorded 149 deaths and 6,701 new cases and patients on Friday, with the country’s death toll reaching 24,789. There are currently 97,633 active cases in the country, according to figures released by the Health Ministry.