Afghanistan starts vaccine drive amid violence

Afghanistan began its first COVID-19 vaccinations on Tuesday (February 23), initially administering doses to security force members, health workers and journalists.

But it's a campaign that may face challenges, following a sharp rise in violence in the country.

The war-damaged nation received 500,000 doses of AstraZeneca's vaccine from the Serum Institute of India earlier this month, which is producing the shot for mid- and low-income countries.

Afghan president Ashraf Ghani said people should not get complacent, despite the roll-out.

"The coronavirus risk has not been eliminated yet. Unfortunately, new types of the virus are always emerging, so we need to pay attention to ourselves by wearing a mask, maintaining social distance, and paying attention to all our brothers and sisters' global security."

Taliban insurgents fighting the foreign-backed Afghan government have announced their support for the vaccination campaign.

But the inoculations will take place amid relentless violence - despite the government and Taliban opening peace talks last September.

The discussions haven't made any progress so far.

Afghan health officials have said that the international COVAX program - aimed at improving access to the COVID-19 vaccine for developing countries - would provide vaccines to cover 20% of the country's population of 38 million.