Venezuelan President Nicolas Maduro said the country has signed an agreement to produce two million doses per month of a Cuban coronavirus vaccine, adding that his government has also managed to secure funds to fully pay for COVID injections through COVAX , a global sharing mechanism.
“We have signed an agreement to produce in our laboratories … two million vaccines per month of the Abdala vaccine … for August, September, or so,” Maduro said in a televised speech on Sunday, referring to one of the four vaccines in progress. of development. by Cuba.
The South American country will also participate in phase 3 trials of the Abdala vaccine produced by its socialist ally.
Cuba has developed four jabs that are in various stages of clinical trials. The island nation has already started vaccinating its health workers with two of its vaccines still in the third phase of clinical trials.
Abdala is being administered to 124,000 health workers, while 48,000 volunteers are participating in a parallel phase three clinical study. If approved, Abdala would be the first COVID-19 vaccine fully developed and produced in Latin America.
So far, vaccine deployment in Venezuela has been slow, with 0.34% of the population having received at least one vaccine, behind neighboring countries such as Brazil and Colombia which have, respectively, vaccinated 7.57 and 3.88% of their residents, according to Our World in Figures data.
To date, the country has received 250,000 doses of Russian vaccine Sputnik V and half a million from Chinese company Sinopharm.
Another blow to the country’s vaccination effort has come from reports of a possible link between rare cases of blood clots and the AstraZeneca vaccine.
Therefore, Venezuela announced in March that he will not authorize the use of the jab when he had reserved between 1.4 and 2.4 million doses. The clot reports were confirmed last week by the European Union regulator who stressed, however, that the vaccine’s benefits always outweigh its risks.
Meanwhile, Maduro said the country has also managed to secure funds to acquire 11.3 million doses through the World Health Organization. COVAX mechanism – a global platform aiming to deliver 2 billion photos to the poorest countries by the end of the year.
The news came after the government claimed for months that the sanctions imposed by the United States had prevented Venezuela from paying the $ 120 million needed to obtain the COVID-19 vaccines, but on Saturday it did so. surprising announcement that 64 million dollars had been transferred to the Swiss company GAVI. Vaccine Alliance.
“We’ve already got the rest to make 100% of (payment) to the COVAX system,” Maduro said in a televised speech. He said the government was able to access funds that had been “kidnapped” by the United States.
“At the right time, we will reveal where the money is coming from,” he said, without giving further details.
Allies of opposition leader Juan Guaido, who is recognized by Washington as the rightful president of Venezuela, negotiated for months with government officials to pay for COVAX vaccines with funds that had been frozen in the United States.
The opposition said Saturday’s announcement was proof that the sanctions did not prevent Maduro’s government from paying for the vaccines.
Officially, the country of 30 million people has recorded 175,000 cases and some 1,700 deaths. Venezuelan scientists attributed the relatively lower case numbers to gasoline shortages that limited mobility in the early months of the pandemic as well as rapid lockdown measures.
But observer groups such as Human Rights Watch question this figure, which they say is probably vastly underestimated.