Brazil's Lula receives first dose of coronavirus vaccine

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Brazilian ex-president Luiz Inacio Lula da Silva receives a dose of Sinovac's CoronaVac vaccine in Sao Bernardo do Campo, near Sao Paulo, on March 13, 2021

Ex-president Luiz Inacio Lula da Silva received his first coronavirus vaccine dose Saturday, calling on Brazilians to "avoid gatherings" just days after his return to politics following overturned corruption convictions.

With Brazil facing a second and particularly virulent coronavirus wave, the left-wing former leader said in a video broadcast on social media that he "would be much happier if there were vaccines for everyone."

Lula, who led Brazil from 2003 to 2010, received a shot of the Chinese-developed CoronaVac vaccine in Sao Bernardo do Campo on the outskirts of Sao Paulo, stating that "all people who are forced to work, who cannot stay at home, must be vaccinated."

"It is the government's duty to guarantee vaccines," said the 75-year-old former metal worker and union leader, who founded Brazil's Workers Party (PT).

Lula said he would receive his second vaccine dose "in 14 to 28 days."

When he spoke publicly for the first time Wednesday since recovering his political rights, Lula lambasted President Jair Bolsonaro's "imbecile decisions" in handling the pandemic in Brazil, where more than 275,000 people have died of the virus.

The far-right leader has worked tirelessly to minimize the pandemic and questioned the effectiveness of vaccines, stating that he would not get one.

"We all have the obligation to fight Holocaust denial, to fight against those people who do not believe in vaccines, who tell Brazilian civil society nonsense," Lula said in the Saturday video, as he called on the population to "avoid gatherings" to fight the virus.

On Monday a Supreme Court justice annulled Lula's corruption convictions, reinstating his right to run for office and setting up a potential showdown between the popular but tarnished leftist leader and Bolsonaro in presidential elections next year.

The cases against Lula grew out of "Operation Car Wash," an investigation that blew the lid off a massive corruption scheme in which top politicians and business executives systematically siphoned billions of dollars from state oil giant Petrobras.

Brazil's full Supreme Court will take on the issue of the annulment of Lula's convictions, after a judge on Friday denied an appeal by prosecutors to reverse the decision.