DHARMSALA, India – The Dalai Lama, the 85-year-old Tibetan spiritual leader, was given the first shot of the coronavirus vaccine on Saturday at a hospital in the northern Indian mountain town of Dharmsala.
After receiving the injection, he urged people to come forward, be brave, and get vaccinated.
“This injection is very, very helpful in avoiding some serious problems,” he said.
Dr. G. D. Gupta of the Zonal Hospital, where the shot was administered, told reporters that the Dalai Lama was observed for 30 minutes afterwards. “He offered to come to the hospital like an ordinary man for a vaccination,” he said.
Ten other people who live in the Dalai Lama’s residence have also been vaccinated, Gupta said. All eleven received the Covishield vaccine, which was developed by Oxford University and UK-based drug maker AstraZeneca and manufactured by the Serum Institute of India.
The Dalai Lama made Dharmsala his headquarters in 1959 and fled Tibet after a failed uprising against Chinese rule. China does not recognize the Tibetan government in exile and accuses the Dalai Lama of separating Tibet from China.
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The Dalai Lama denies being a separatist and only advocates substantial autonomy and the protection of the indigenous Buddhist culture of the region.
India has confirmed more than 11 million cases of the coronavirus and over 157,000 deaths. The country, which has the world’s second highest case count after the US, launched its vaccination campaign in January, starting with health care and the frontline workers.
Earlier this month, it expanded its vaccination campaign to include the elderly and people with conditions that put them at risk.