Anti-vaccine residents from a village in Guatemala seized and detained a team of nurses who were attempting to administer coronavirus vaccines, according to the government.
Eleven health workers were held for about seven hours in the village of Nahuila in Alta Verapaz province, north of Guatemala City.
The government of Alejandro Giammattei said the workers were rescued Monday afternoon by security forces after police negotiated with community leaders and “about 500 people” who were at the site.
“The people of the community said that they were opposed to the vaccination after one of the villagers was vaccinated and subsequently suffered side effects from the vaccine, which were interpreted as health problems,” the government said in a press release. “The inhabitants of Maguila stripped the vaccinators of their cell phones, slashed the tires of the vehicle in which they were being transported, and blocked the entrances and exits of the community with fences and stones.”
The vaccination campaign in Guatemala progresses at a slow pace due to public distrust in the vaccine. Some 4.5 million people have received their first dose and 2.5 million have been fully vaccinated – or about 24% of those eligible to receive the vaccine — one of the lowest rates in the region.
The country reports more than 566,000 cases and nearly 14,000 deaths.
Officials said they have dealt with people who rejected the vaccine but health workers have never encountered physical attacks.
During a televised address Saturday, Giammattei urged his country to “respect” health officials carrying out the vaccination campaign who were being “threatened, attacked and even kidnapped.”