Spanish regional health chief resigns after jumping vaccine queue

FILE PHOTO: Health worker receives an injection with a dose of the Pfizer-BioNTech COVID-19 vaccine, in Madrid
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MADRID (Reuters) - The top health official in the Spanish region of Murcia resigned on Wednesday after admitting he had received a coronavirus vaccine despite not belonging to any priority group designated for initial inoculations, such as frontline medical staff.

After reports in the local media on Tuesday of his early vaccination prompted calls for his resignation, Manuel Villegas initially refused to step down.

He justified taking the shot early by saying he was a doctor and his job led him to frequently interact with other health workers who had a high risk of infection.

"My papers say I'm a doctor, they don't say I'm a politician," he told a news conference earlier on Wednesday, adding that some 400 members of his department had already been inoculated.

"It was a decision that I believed in and I continue to stand by it," he said.

His remarks sparked more outrage, with politicians from parties on the left and the right calling for him to go. On Wednesday evening, Murcia's regional chief Fernando Lopez Miras confirmed he had reluctantly accepted Villegas' resignation.

"Today it is my turn to say goodbye to an admirable man ... Villegas has been exemplary and his performance has been impeccable," he told a news conference.

(Reporting by Nathan Allen; Editing by Andrei Khalip and Bill Berkrot)