La Paz, Jan 3 (EFE).- A senior Bolivian government official who had sparked controversy with his decision to rely on ancestral medicine and not immunize himself against Covid-19 finally received an initial dose of a vaccine on Monday.
Several months after inoculations began for his age range, Vice President David Choquehuanca, 60, arrived at around 7 am at one of the main vaccination centers in downtown La Paz and was administered a shot developed by the China National Pharmaceutical Group Corporation (Sinopharm).
Before receiving the dose, Choquehuanca participated in a ritual led by indigenous priests in which he was purified with incense and had petals placed on his head and body.
“At this time we need to protect ourselves with two medicines: with pharmacological medicine and natural medicine,” Choquehuanca, who is of Aymara descent and is an indigenous activist, said after receiving his initial vaccine dose.
Choquehuanca faced harsh criticism from both the conservative opposition and members of his own Movement for Socialism (MAS) party over his decision to remain unvaccinated, a stance seen as contradicting the government’s policy of combating a challenging fourth Covid-19 wave through a mass immunization drive.
In a statement to a local media outlet, the vice president acknowledged having contracted the coronavirus on at least two occasions and said he had overcome the infection thanks to “natural medicine” and by eating grass and consuming other healing concoctions based on curcuma, honey, ginger, onion and lemon.
“We salute our brother, David Choquehuanca, for his compliance,” said Health Minister Jeyson Auza, who accompanied the vice president to the vaccination center.
Since Jan. 1, people in Bolivia have been required to show their digital vaccination cards to gain entry into different public and private spaces such as banks, restaurants and offices.
The health minister noted that the number of newly reported coronavirus infections has recently climbed to levels not seen in any of the previous pandemic waves, adding that the daily case load last week totaled nearly 8,000 on three consecutive days.
Nevertheless, Auza said the case fatality rate during this current wave stands at just 0.8 percent and hospitals for now are not being overwhelmed by new admissions.
Government requirements that people show proof of vaccination or of a negative PCR test administered in the past 48 hours have triggered criticism from religious groups and other sectors, who say they amount to mandatory vaccination measures.
“Anyone who exercises their right to not be vaccinated also must assume the obligation to not carry new variants, to not infect people,” Auza said, adding that the measures merely “encourage” vaccination.
Bolivia has registered 19,733 Covid-19 deaths and 614,941 confirmed coronavirus cases since the start of the pandemic there in March 2020, while the country is currently reporting 62,668 active cases.
More than 9.8 million Covid-19 doses have been administered since that country of around 11.5 million people gradually kicked off its vaccination drive one year ago. EFE