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Polish MP suspended by ruling Law and Justice Party after taking COVID-19 vaccine

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By Matthew Holroyd
An overload of online registrations and reduced deliveries have caused delays in Poland's inoculation programme.
An overload of online registrations and reduced deliveries have caused delays in Poland's inoculation programme.   -   Copyright  AP Photo/Czarek Sokolowski - FILE

Poland's ruling Law and Justice party (PiS) has suspended an MP after it was revealed he had received a COVID-19 vaccine.

Zbigniew Girzyński, a lawmaker from the Toruń district, admitted on social media he had taken the jab as a university lecturer but denied wrongdoing.

The country has given vaccine priority to medical and non-medical staff at healthcare facilities, as well as elderly citizens over the age of 70.

The head of the PiS Executive Committee, Krzysztof Sobolewski, confirmed on Tuesday the MP had been suspended as a member by the party's chairman, Jarosław Kaczyński.

"The rules apply to everyone," Sobolewski said on Twitter.

Girzyński was among non-medical employees at Nicolaus Copernicus University, who had applied for a vaccination, Polish media reported this week.

According to a statement on Facebook, the lawmaker said had received a referral issued by the Ministry of Health in December and had "completed the formalities".

"I followed the same procedure as other employees of the Nicolaus Copernicus University in Toruń, according to the information provided by my employer, the University, and the guidelines from the Ministry of Health," Girzyński said.

"I did not ask for any priority in the queue and at no time did I vaccinate out of turn."

"I acted from A to Z according to the law in force and in accordance with the recommendations of the authorities of the University, which is my primary place of work."

The lawmaker stated that he shared the opinion that rules should apply to all citizens, and reiterated that he "only acted and will only act in accordance with them".

In a statement to the PAP news agency, a spokesperson for the university said the MP had the right to be vaccinated "under the ordinance of the Minister of Health".

According to a regulation from Poland's Council of Ministers on January 14, "academic teachers employed by a university" would be entitled to a vaccine but were listed after many other groups, including healthcare workers, and pregnant and elderly citizens.

But Poland's Health Minister, Adam Niedzielski, condemned the behaviour of Girzyński in a press conference on Wednesday.

"At the moment, we are vaccinating people in the 'zero' (priority) group and senior citizens," said Niedzielski, adding "it is difficult to see Mr Girzyński as belonging to either of these groups."

"There is no acceptance for such an attitude, regardless of political colours or profession."

Poland began vaccinating citizens on December 27 and has so far inoculated over 900,000 people, according to the government website.

But a number of social media users in Poland have criticised the government for a perceived unclear vaccination strategy.

Earlier this month, some hospitals in the country suspended operations after they did not receive the expected deliveries of their Pfizer/BioNTech doses.