Protests mount after Erdoğan says he got 3 doses of COVID vaccine

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Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdoğan drew the ire of opposition politicians and social media users after stating during a televised interview that he had received three doses of the COVID-19 vaccine, local media reported on Wednesday.

“I received three doses of the vaccine, and then I checked to see if there was an increase in my antibody levels. Thank God, I reached 2,160 [units per milliliter],” Erdoğan said late on Tuesday during a live interview on state broadcaster TRT Haber.

Erdoğan’s statement triggered angry responses from opposition politicians and social media users who argued that it wasn’t fair for Erdoğan to receive three shots while only 12 million people in Turkey had been able to receive a second dose.

Murat Emir, a lawmaker from the main opposition Republican People’s Party (CHP), argued that Erdoğan’s remarks confirmed his claims that nearly 200,000 doses of the vaccine came to Turkey earlier than was officially announced at the end of 2020 and were secretly administered to people close to the ruling Justice and Development Party (AKP).

“They [the AKP] denied the claims when I made them [back in early February]. Now the president says he received three doses. Since he couldn’t have received all three within the past five months, this statement confirms my allegations of favoritism in the vaccination rollout in Turkey,” Emir said.

“While [some] people can’t even get one dose, Erdoğan gets three,” CHP deputy group chairman Engin Özkoç tweeted.

“How can a person say this while there are over 50 million people in the country who still haven’t received the first dose? Shame on you! By the way, we can’t have our antibody levels checked at state hospitals. The private ones do it for TL 1,000 [$116],” a social media user said.

The Turkish government, which had ordered the end of in-person dining at restaurants and cafes in mid-April as the country suffered record levels of COVID-19 infections and deaths, rolled back restrictions to allow indoor dining and end weekend lockdowns as of Tuesday, following a decline in cases.

The country, which launched its vaccination drive in mid-January, has administered the first dose to 16.7 million people and the full two doses to 12.6 million.

According to a statement by Turkish Health Minister Fahrettin Koca on Monday, the country will receive 12 million doses of BioNTech vaccine by mid-June.

Turkey recorded 7,112 daily coronavirus infections in addition to 129 deaths over the last 24 hours on Tuesday.

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