Bolivia launches unprecedented vaccination drive to combat COVID-19

Bolivian President Luis Arce (L) looks on as a medical worker administers a dose of Chinese Sinopharm COVID-19 vaccine to a recipient in Santa Cruz, Bolivia, Feb. 25, 2021. (Photo: Xinhua)

Bolivia on Thursday launched the largest immunization campaign in its history in the eastern city of Santa Cruz to inoculate residents with COVID-19 vaccines developed by Chinese pharmaceutical firm Sinopharm.

Bolivian President Luis Arce inaugurated the campaign, accompanied by government officials and representatives of the Chinese Embassy to Bolivia.

People with underlying medical conditions were the first to be vaccinated.

"With this vaccine we feel safe, so that all my colleagues with whom I do dialysis three times a week can be protected," said Monica Alejandra Cruz, the first beneficiary at the National Center for Tropical Diseases in Santa Cruz.

A hundred people in the high-risk group arrived at the vaccination center, complying with social distancing rules put in place by the Ministry of Health.

The "doses of hope" have generated high expectations among the public that the campaign will bring the pandemic under control, as the novel coronavirus is spreading to different parts of the country, which has registered 245,719 confirmed COVID-19 cases and 11,547 deaths from the disease.

On Wednesday, a shipment of the Chinese vaccines arrived in the Latin American country from Beijing. Part of the cargo remained in Santa Cruz and the rest was distributed to other departments to continue the vaccination drive.

According to the government's plan, the campaign will first immunize healthcare workers and people over 60 years old, as well as those with underlying medical conditions.

Arce thanked China for its decisive support and called on the Bolivian public to get vaccinated to combat the pandemic.

"We are vaccinating people who are in the high-risk group and we will gradually reach all of the people, who have suffered uncertainty and great concern for a year," Arce said.