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Covid: Anti-vaccination protests held in Australia ahead of rollout

media captionPolice used pepper spray in Melbourne and several people were arrested

Anti-vaccination protesters have gathered across Australia ahead of the launch of the country’s coronavirus inoculation programme.

Protests were held in cities including Melbourne, Sydney and Brisbane, with participants chanting slogans like: “My body, my choice.”

The rallies were largely peaceful, but police made several arrests in Melbourne, local media reported.

The national rollout of the Pfizer vaccine is set to begin on Monday.

Australia’s medical regulator earlier this week also granted provisional approval for the vaccine developed by AstraZeneca and Oxford University, which is expected to be rolled out next month.

Both vaccines have undergone extensive safety checks and are already being used in several countries.

The rallies on Saturday were joined by a few thousand people in total, according to broadcaster ABC.

In Melbourne, some protesters clashed with police, who used pepper spray and made several arrests.

Police said 15 people would receive penalty notices for breaching its Covid-19 laws. Five others were charged for resisting arrest, hindering police and refusing to provide details, according to ABC.

Protesters there held signs denouncing the vaccine rollout.

“I don’t care, you want the vaccine, take the vaccine but don’t force me to take it,” one protester said.

The jabs in Australia are free, but it is not mandatory for people to have them.

The priority groups in the first round include the 700,000 frontline workers in the health sector, border enforcement and care homes, along with the residents of care homes.

Australia has recorded just under 29,000 cases, and 909 deaths since the pandemic began.

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media captionRomesh Ranganathan says his mother initially had doubts over having the vaccine

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