SANTIAGO (Reuters) – Chilean lawmakers on Tuesday presented a bill before Congress that would make vaccination against the coronavirus mandatory as the country’s center-right government pushes to inosculate the majority of its population by mid-year.
The bill would modify the country’s health code, which already requires vaccination against smallpox, whooping cough and other diseases, according to the opposition Christian Democracy party lawmakers who submitted the legislation.
Chile was the first country in South America to begin a COVID-19 vaccination program.
The Andean nation is also among the best positioned in the region for vaccine supply, having struck deals with AstraZeneca Plc <AZN.L >, Pfizer Inc and partner BioNTech SE, and China’s Sinovac Biotech Ltd.
“As we move forward in this process, we are unfortunately going to meet resistance from compatriots,” said bill sponsor Gabriel Silber. He said the bill would help ensure the effectiveness of the country’s ambitious vaccination program.
An IPSOS survey in early December found that seven out of 10 Chileans said they would be willing to get vaccinated.
Silber said the legislation would help assure Chile could effectively vaccinate 80% of its population, which health experts in the country say would be necessary to achieve herd immunity and stem virus transmission.
Health Minister Enrique Paris said earlier this week that officials would study the proposal.
Chile began vaccinating frontline healthcare workers shortly before Christmas, and said other state officials involved in the fight against the virus, as well as the elderly and chronically ill are next in line.
(Reporting by Natalia Ramos, Writing by Dave Sherwood; Editing by Bill Berkrot)