Covid vaccine obligatory in Ecuador from age of 5

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A health worker prepares a dose of the Pfizer/BioNTech Covid-19 vaccine at a school in Quito, Ecuador (AFP/RODRIGO BUENDIA)

Ecuador on Thursday became the first country to make coronavirus vaccines obligatory for children as young as five, following the arrival of the Omicron variant in the South American country.

"In Ecuador, vaccination against Covid-19 is declared compulsory," the health ministry said in a statement.

"Compulsory vaccination applies to persons five years and older," the ministry told AFP.

Some 69 percent of Ecuador's population of 17.7 million people have received two vaccine doses to date, and 900,000 have received a third, booster dose.

Everyone from the age of five is eligible to be vaccinated.

Ecuador has registered nearly 540,000 coronavirus cases to date, and 33,600 deaths.

People with medical reasons for not getting the vaccine will be exempt from the mandatory jab, the ministry said.

It added the decision was founded in Ecuador's constitution, in which the right to health must be guaranteed by the State.

To combat a rise in new cases after the Omicron variant was first detected a week ago, Ecuador has made it compulsory to present a vaccine record for people to enter restaurants, shopping malls, cinemas, theaters and other public places.

Vaccination is mandatory in Tajikistan, Turkmenistan, Indonesia, Micronesia and New Caledonia, for adults.

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