Madagascar on Monday rolled out its Covid-19 vaccination campaign. Health Minister Jean Louis Hanitrala Rakotovao was among the first to be inoculated in the capital, Antananarivo.
The Indian Ocean island nation received its first shipment of 250,000 AstraZeneca jabs on Saturday.
They followed a surge in infections which saw some schools and community centers transformed into treatment facilities.
“I’ll be back for the second dose, I’m already ready for it. I encourage people to get vaccinated because it is good to fight against the coronavirus. Many people are infected and have died from this disease,” said Hanitra Lovasoa Rasoarimalala, a civil servant after being vaccinated.
President Andry Rajoelina has been criticized for his handling of the pandemic.
Until recently, he had been promoting a herbal concoction as a cure for the virus prompting a warning from the WHO.
“Our message is that people should be vaccinated. But it is voluntary,” said Issa Sanogo, the United Nations Resident Coordinator in Madagascar
“We can’t force anyone. The president is part of the population, so it is his right to accept or not to accept to be vaccinated, but vaccination is available for everyone,” Sanogo added.
Madagascar has registered 38,874 infections, including at least 716 deaths.
Last month, President Rajoelina said the Sinopharm, Pfizer, and Covishield vaccines would also be used in the country’s vaccination drive.