The Dalai Lama, the Tibetan spiritual leader, received his first shot of the Oxford-AstraZeneca vaccine on Saturday in the north Indian city of Dharamsala.
He took the moment to encourage people to take the vaccine as well, saying it would prevent “a serious problem” from occurring.
“This injection is very, very helpful,” said the 85-year-old, a leader of Tibetan Buddhism, in a video message after the vaccination, stating that he hoped his example would inspire more people to be “courageous.” to get vaccinated for the “greater benefit”.
The Dalai Lama received the shot in a hospital in Dharamsala. which, after a failed uprising against Chinese rule, served as the headquarters of the Tibetan government-in-exile for more than 50 years.
India has accepted Tibetan refugees since the Dalai Lama’s exodus in 1959 on condition that they do not protest against the Chinese government on Indian soil. China regards the Tibetan leader as a dangerous separatist, a claim he denies.
Videos showed the spiritual leader being driven to the hospital and his followers, masked and standing with clasped hands and heads down on either side of the road as he waved.
Dr. GD Gupta, an official at the hospital where the shot was administered, said the spiritual leader “came to the hospital voluntarily” and that 10 others who live in his apartment also received the Covishield vaccine, which was supplied by AstraZeneca and AstraZeneca was developed by Oxford University and manufactured by the Serum Institute of India.
According to a New York Times database, India has more than 11.1 million confirmed cases, after the US and Brazil, with 157,656 deaths on Saturday and the third highest number of virus deaths in the world. India started its nationwide vaccination campaign in mid-January with health workers and the front line.
The country recently expanded eligibility to older adults and those with diseases that put them at risk, but the ambitious attempt to vaccinate its large population has been slow.