Anti-vaccination protesters gathered across Australia, ahead of the government’s launch of the country’s vaccination program.
Protests erupted in cities including Melbourne, Sydney and Brisbane, and participants chanted slogans such as: “It’s my body, it’s my choice.”
Local media reported that the marches were largely peaceful, but police arrested several people in Melbourne.
The Pfizer vaccine will start rolling out in Australia next Monday.
Australian medical regulators also granted interim approval earlier this week for the other vaccine developed by the University of Oxford and AstraZeneca, which is expected to be released next month.
Authorities have subjected both vaccines to widespread safety checks, and they have already been approved for use in several countries.
According to the Australian ABC station, a few thousand people participated in the rallies that began on Saturday morning.
The city of Melbourne witnessed clashes between demonstrators and police, who used pepper spray and arrested several people.
She said 15 people would receive criminal warnings for violating COVID-19 laws. Meanwhile, the authorities charged five people with resisting arrest, obstructing police work, and refusing to provide details.
The famous Australian chef Pete Evans led a protest rally in Sydney. Evans is known for his anti-Coronavirus measures and has been banned from social media sites, Facebook and Instagram, for repeatedly posting misinformation about the Coronavirus.
The demonstrators raised banners denouncing the distribution of the vaccine, and the citizens’ use of experiments.
One protester said, “I don’t care. You want the vaccine, take the vaccine but don’t force me to take it either.”
The authorities decided to give vaccines free of charge in Australia, but it is not mandatory for people, and Australia aims to vaccinate four million people by early March.
The priority groups in the first round include 700,000 frontline workers in the health sector, border control forces and care homes, as well as residents of care homes.
Australia has recorded nearly 29,000 cases and 909 deaths since the epidemic began.