Vaccine policies at universities stir legal debate

Vaccine policies at universities stir legal debate

Vaccine policies at universities stir legal debate

Some universities’ approach toward the vaccination of their students as the new academic season nears has stirred a legal debate in Turkey, with some experts arguing that making inoculation mandatory on campus violates the constitution.

Amid the decline in virus cases and fast-tracked vaccinations, universities across the country are planned to reopen starting Sept. 13.

Kadir Has University in Istanbul recently announced that students who have not been vaccinated against COVID-19 will not be allowed onto its campuses and they will continue take the classes online.

Marmara University said it expected students to get their shots in order to participate in face-to-face education, while Üsküdar University sent letters to students, advising them to have the vaccine. The two universities, both in Istanbul, however, did not say if they will take action against unvaccinated students.

Students reacted to the universities’ approach, saying that their right to education cannot be denied.

Some legal experts agree. “Only laws can restrict the right to education. If the vaccination is not mandatory, you cannot possibly say: I will not allow you to the school. Universities are not entitled to make such a decision, this is against the constitution,” said Professor Muharrem Özen, the dean of the Law School at Ankara University.

He noted that young people have concerns because the effects of the vaccines on people aged around 20 are not known yet. Students who face such restrictions can go to court and win the case, according to Özen.

Professor Hakan Hakeri, the head of the Institute of Medical Law, agrees that decisions taken by universities regarding vaccination are legally baseless. “With those decisions, those institutions effectively obstruct students’ right to education,” he said. “Vaccine is a medical intervention and it is up to a person whether to accept it or not,” Hakeri added.