The Taipei District Prosecutors’ Office yesterday opened an investigation into the Taipei-based Good Liver Clinic after allegations that it gave free COVID-19 vaccine shots to people not in groups eligible to receive them.
Prior to Wednesday, the Central Epidemic Command Center (CECC) had only authorized three groups of people in Taipei to receive shots: The first priority group, composed of registered healthcare workers and other non-healthcare workers at healthcare facilities; the second priority group, composed of central and local government disease prevention personnel; and the third priority group, composed of frontline workers with high infection risk exposure, such as flight or ship crew members, and disease prevention taxi drivers.
However, a Good Liver Clinic branch was on Tuesday found to have a long line for vaccinations.
Photo: Chien Hui-ju, Taipei Times
Media reports said that 1,285 people received shots, even though most of them were ineligible, including electricians, plumbers and clinic volunteers, sparking controversy over whether people with privilege have greater vaccine access.
Some have speculated that the clinic had an “inside connection” to obtain “extra vaccines” because clinic director Sheu Jin-chuan (許金川) was a medical school professor when Taipei Mayor Ko Wen-je (柯文哲) took his training at National Taiwan University Hospital.
Yesterday, Premier Su Tseng-chang (蘇貞昌) told a Cabinet meeting: “Vaccines are precious right now because of their limited supply, so administering them must follow the CECC’s rollout protocols. When people fail to comply and give shots to ineligible persons, an investigation will be conducted and those responsible will be punished for breaking the law.”
Prosecutors — armed with search warrants and in coordination with the Ministry of Justice Investigation Bureau, the Agency Against Corruption, and Taipei Police Department units — searched the clinic and offices of the Taipei Department of Health, taking with them documents for the investigation.
They questioned Sheu and other people embroiled in the case via videoconferencing.
The Democratic Progressive Party legislative caucus questioned whether the city government had distributed vaccines based on privilege or favors to friends, and demanded that Ko verify on what basis the vaccines were distributed to the clinic.
“It is very unfair because many frontline medical personnel have not yet gotten vaccinated,” DPP Legislator Liu Shyh-fang (劉世芳) said. “So far, the Taipei City Government has not clearly explained its disbursement procedure, and whether the vaccines were allotted to the clinic based only on privilege or special connections.”
Separately yesterday afternoon, members of the Taiwan Republic Office filed a complaint at the Taipei District Prosecutors’ Office, requesting that Ko’s “illegal activities” be investigated and accusing Ko of having a major role in deciding which clinics received vaccines.
Additional reporting by CNA
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