ANKARA, Turkey/JAKARTA, Indonesia

Japanese and Thai prime ministers on Tuesday got their first doses of COVID-19 vaccines.

“I thought it would hurt, but it wasn’t so bad,” Japan’s Prime Minister Yoshihide Suga told reporters after getting the Pfizer vaccine shot at the National Center for Global Health and Medicine in the capital Tokyo.

“Vaccinations are an extremely important part of measures against the coronavirus, and we have to deliver these vaccine doses to the people as soon as possible,” Kyodo news agency quoted him as saying.

Suga is visiting Washington early next month to meet US President Joe Biden.

Japan has reported a total of 448,381 virus cases, including 8,626 deaths.

After receiving shipments of COVID-19 vaccines developed by US firm Pfizer and its Germany-based partner BioNTech, Japan launched its vaccination program last month, starting with frontline health workers.

In Bangkok, Thai Prime Minister Prayut Chan-O-cha also received his first dose of the AstraZeneca COVID-19 vaccine, lifting a suspension that was triggered by European nations raising safety concerns.

During the live broadcast on the Thai government’s Facebook page, Prayut urged the public to trust the health workers.

“Today I’m boosting confidence for the general public,” Prayut said.

As many as 61 million doses of the AstraZeneca vaccine have been secured for the country’s population.

Previously, the country had imported 200,000 doses of the vaccine developed by China’s Sinovac for frontline health workers and high-risk groups.

Thai Health Minister Anutin Charnviraku said a further 800,000 doses of the same vaccine would arrive later this month.

Last Friday, Thailand became the first country outside Europe to halt the use of the AstraZeneca vaccine following reports that a small number of people had developed clots after receiving the vaccine.

Pharmaceutical company AstraZeneca issued a statement on Sunday reiterating the safety of its COVID-19 vaccine based on scientific evidence.

As of Tuesday, the Southeast Asian country recorded 27,154 COVID-19 cases, including 87 fatalities and 26,299 recoveries.

*Writing by Maria Elisa Hospita from Anadolu Agency’s Indonesian language service

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