Mexico City, Mexico, May 26, 2021 (venezuelanalysis.com) – Venezuelan President Nicolás Maduro announced the arrival of 1.3 million doses of Covid-19 vaccines from China and a new vaccination effort to immunize the entire population by the end of the year.
“With all these vaccines, a plan has already been prepared that starts tomorrow, to accelerate vaccination,” said Maduro in a televised broadcast Sunday.
Health Minister Carlos Álvarado reported that 90 percent of healthcare workers had already been vaccinated and that the country was focusing on ensuring priority groups—including senior citizens, frontline essential workers, and adults under 60 with comorbidities—would be next to receive the vaccine.
The South American country’s vaccination process lags behind regional neighbors, with US-led sanctions and the seizure of Venezuelan assets abroad hampering efforts to secure more vaccines. Venezuelan Vice President Delcy Rodríguez previously condemned the global inequality in access to vaccines.
Venezuela has instead relied on international partners such as China and Russia to obtain the 2.7 million vaccines that have already arrived. Earlier this year, the government announced a 10 million Sputnik-V vaccines purchase and has received a reported 900,000 doses to date.
As part of this new phase of vaccinations, the country is aiming for 70 percent of its population to be vaccinated by August, primarily with the single-dose Russian Sputnik Light vaccines.
In a meeting with middle-school students Tuesday, President Maduro said he expected in-person classes to resume in September or October of this year. Authorities backtracked on previous attempts to restart in-person classes with the arrival of a second coronavirus wave in March.
Venezuela is also set to receive the Johnson & Johnson vaccine, produced by the Belgian pharmaceutical Janssen, through the United Nations' COVAX program.
The COVAX vaccines will cover 5.7 million Venezuelans, roughly 20 percent of the approximately 30 million population.
Ciro Ugarte, Health Emergencies director of the Pan American Health Organization (PAHO), said the Johnson & Johnson vaccine had been paid for and would begin to arrive in June.
The single-dose vaccines allow a faster inoculation process than double-dose alternatives, facilitating the government’s mass vaccination effort.
Sputnik Light and Johnson & Johnson also have the advantage that they can be stored at temperatures ranging from two to eight degrees Celsius in conventional refrigerators and without additional cold-chain infrastructure, which would have imposed a considerable logistical challenge.
On Wednesday, authorities reported that 1,317 new cases of community contagion had been detected in the last 24-hour period, for a total of 14,097 active cases. The Caribbean nation has registered 2,544 deaths so far. Despite having the healthcare system in precarious conditions as a result of sanctions, Venezuela has largely managed to avoid a deadlier second wave of Covid-19 cases spurred by more infectious variants of concern seen in neighboring countries such as Brazil.
Edited by Ricardo Vaz from Mérida.