By Alexandra Valencia
QUITO (Reuters) - Ecuador will administer booster shots against COVID-19 to the general population starting January 2022, the government said on Wednesday, acknowledging a rise in cases in the Amazon region due to difficulties in carrying out vaccinations.
Some 68% of Ecuador's population has received two vaccine doses, and the government hopes to vaccinate 85% of the country's 17.8 million people.
"We're going to start applying booster shots to the general population from January, following the same rollout as our vaccination plan," Health Minister Ximena Garzon told journalists.
The country is already giving booster shots to elderly patients, as well as those with immunodeficiency disorders, and frontline medical staff.
The government's objective is to bring coronavirus under control in order to maintain Ecuador's economic recovery as it struggles with liquidity issues made worse by the pandemic.
Garzon acknowledged problems regarding vaccine rollout, particularly in Amazonian provinces due to hesitancy, leading to rising cases in the region.
"We have a small outbreak in these provinces, we have increased cases of COVID-19, including those requiring hospitalization and intensive care units," she said.
The country has recorded lose to 525,000 coronavirus cases, as well as more than 33,000 confirmed and probable deaths, according to the health ministry.
Ecuador has enough doses to vaccinate its targeted 85% of the population and will receive at least three million additional vaccines between January and February 2022, Garzon said.
(Reporting by Alexandra Valencia; Writing by Oliver Griffin; Editing by Aurora Ellis)