Colombia to allow private imports of COVID-19 vaccine, but shots must be free

Mass vaccination program for the elderly in Bogota
A woman receives her first dose of China's Sinovac Biotech vaccine for the coronavirus disease (COVID-19) during a mass vaccination program for the elderly at Movistar Arena in Bogota, Colombia March 9, 2021. REUTERS/Luisa Gonzalez/File Photo

BOGOTA, April 5 (Reuters) - Colombia will allow the private importation of COVID-19 vaccines, the health ministry said on Monday, but the shots must be free for those being inoculated.

The Andean country plans to immunize about 70% of its 50 million people this year under a free national program and has administered some 2.4 million doses since February.

Those giving out privately acquired shots must comply with government standards and cannot use facilities needed by the national program, the health ministry said in a draft decree shared with journalists.

"The immunization process carried out with vaccines acquired by private persons must take place at zero cost to the beneficiaries of the application," the resolution reads.

Countries including Pakistan and India are allowing the private purchase of COVID-19 vaccinations. read more

The government has issued warnings over an increase in case numbers following the Easter holidays and put in place restrictions based on occupancy rates in intensive care units. So far over 64,000 Colombians have died from coronavirus. read more

Reporting by Julia Symmes Cobb; Editing by Karishma Singh

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