Ecuador makes COVID-19 vaccine mandatory for all eligible residents

The Ecuadorian government on Thursday issued a vaccine mandate for all eligible residents, making Ecuador the most recent country to issue this strict measure against the COVID-19 pandemic.

Exceptions to the far-reaching vaccine mandate will be made for people who cannot safely receive the vaccine, the government said. All other Ecuadorians ages five and above will be required to get the shot.

Ecuador's Minister of Public Health Ximena Garzón cited the spread of new variants of concern, such as omicron, for the new requirement. To encourage vaccinations, 24-hour health centers will be kept open over the Christmas holiday, the health ministry said in the announcement.

The ministry stated that the country has enough vaccines in stock to immunize all its residents and stressed that the vaccines are considered to be safe and effective.

Roughly 77 percent of Ecuador's population over the age of 5 is fully vaccinated against the coronavirus, Reuters reported. The news wire noted that the Ecuadorian government had said that it wanted to vaccinate 85 percent of its population this year.

Indonesia, Micronesia, Turkmenistan and Tajikistan have all issued similar vaccine mandates, and Germany and Austria are expected to do so next year.

The Ecuadorian health ministry said earlier this week that the delta variant of COVID-19 is still the most prevalent variant of concern in the country, though several cases of omicron have been confirmed.

According to the World Health Organization, Ecuador has so far confirmed more than 538,000 COVID-19 cases and over 33,000 related deaths since the beginning of the pandemic.