Ukraine minister gets jab to boost flagging rollout

Ukraine’s Health Minister Maksym Stepanov received a coronavirus jab on Monday, as he tries to encourage more Ukrainians to get vaccinated and boost a faltering rollout.

Ukraine minister gets jab to boost flagging rollout
This handout picture taken and released by Ukraine’s Healthсare Ministry press office on March 1, 2021, shows the minister Maksym Stepanov receiving a dose of Covid-19 vaccine in Kiev. AFP

The ex-Soviet nation of 40 million people launched its vaccination campaign last week but authorities have already come under fire for a slow rollout.

Receiving his jab in front of cameras at a hospital in the capital Kiev, Stepanov sought to boost confidence in the AstraZeneca vaccine, the first 500,000 doses of which arrived in Ukraine last month. 

But many Ukrainians are sceptical of the drug, including the medical workers who are first in line. 

“Today, I have proved by my own example that the vaccine received by Ukraine is absolutely safe and effective,” Stepanov said in a statement after the vaccination.

The health ministry’s press service said that only 3,000 medical workers received the jabs during the first five days of the vaccination campaign. 

Ukrainian media reported that some unused shots were thrown away after doctors did not show up for their appointments.

The government has already faced criticism for the slow vaccine rollout, and Ukrainian lawmakers invited the health minister to parliament on Friday for a report on the campaign.

More than 1.3 million infections have been recorded in Ukraine and more than 26,000 people have died.

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