Prague protest draws thousands against vaccine mandate

Thousands turned out in the Czech capital of Prague on Sunday for protests against the government’s vaccine mandate, The Associated Press reported

Many demonstrators who gathered at Wenceslas Square chanted, "Freedom," challenged the effectiveness of the COVID-19 vaccines in general and rejected the idea of vaccinated children, according to the AP. 

The large demonstration followed several smaller ones in cities across the Czech Republic on Saturday. 

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The previous Czech government announced vaccine mandates in December for those 60 and older as well as for health care workers and first responders. 

The protesters want Prime Minister Petr Fiala's administration to overturn the order before it goes into effect. The new government has already indicated its opposition to the mandate for older residents, but where it stands on the other groups is unclear, according the AP. 

Countries across the world are currently dealing with a winter surge of COVID-19 infections driven largely by the omicron variant, which is far more infectious but appears to be less severe than previous strains. 

Some 6.7 million people in the Czech Republic are fully vaccinated against the virus — about 62 percent of the eligible population — and 2.8 million have received their booster shots.