By Natalia A. Ramos Miranda
SANTIAGO (Reuters) - Chile on Wednesday launched one of Latin America's most ambitious coronavirus vaccination programmes, having set itself the target of inoculating around five million citizens against the disease by the end of March.
The country, which started targeted inoculations late last year for frontline health workers, is now rolling vaccines out to older adults and essential workers after receiving nearly four million doses of China's Sinovac vaccine.
Chile, which has almost 750,000 confirmed COVID-19 cases and over 18,500 deaths, is set to receive a further 6 million doses of Sinovac in February and 3 million more in early March.
"This allows us to safely begin this mass vaccination process for our entire population," President Sebastián Piñera said early Wednesday at one of the 1,400 vaccination sites set up across the country.
Piñera said Chile also expects to receive some 6 million more doses of the Pfizer vaccine about 4 million of the AstraZeneca-Oxford vaccine by mid-year, by when it aims to have inoculated 15 million of its near 19 million citizens.
The government has acknowledged its plans are "ambitious".
Chile also has a pre-agreement to purchase 4 million doses of the Johnson & Johnson COVID-19 vaccine and has signed up to the global COVAX distribution scheme.
(Reporting by Natalia Ramos; Editing by Adam Jourdan and John Stonestreet)