Amid doubts, complaints Venezuela’s vax campaign advancing slowly

By Nicole Kolster

Caracas, Jul 5 (EFE).- The long lines of people in Venezuela waiting to get vaccinated against Covid-19 are a frequent sight these days that provide evidence for the slowness with which the immunization campaign is advancing.

Around the country, one can also regularly see posters warning that there is not enough of Russia’s Sputnik V vaccine to provide the required two doses to everyone.

In addition, the Cuban vaccine Abdala, which is still in the testing phase, is also beginning to be offered to Venezuelans, EFE determined, although the Caracas immunization center where it is being administered is the only such site, and it is always half-empty.

“Only people older than age 60 and getting their first shots!” shouted a woman dressed in a militia uniform as she walked along the kilometer-long line at a vaccination center in San Martin, a working class Caracas neighborhood.

A long line of young people and adults listened to her without expression and without betraying the exhaustion they felt waiting in line for what could be up to eight hours to get their shots.

Danilo Adrianza, 74, made the trip for nothing because, as he told EFE, “They only have the Chinese (vaccine)” and he can’t get that one because he already received the first dose of Russia’s Sputnik V and now he must “wait and notice” when it is once again available so that he can complete his two-shot regimen.

“I came to get vaccinated but they don’t have the Russian one, they don’t have the second dose,” added Rosa Hernandez, 82, who after having a spinal operation and with a prosthesis on her knee had been waiting in line for six hours. “I’m going home,” she said. “What can I do?”

A sign at the center’s entrance makes it clear that there is no Russian vaccine. Danilo and Rosa, however, were standing in line far from the door and did not read the sign in time to save themselves hours of waiting.

On the other side of the capital, the scene is the same. There, a police officer from the central state of Miranda (which includes part of Caracas) informed people wanting their shots that they needed to be alert for “a text message.”

He was referring to the text messages that the government sends to people’s cellphones to notify them of the vaccination schedule, but not everyone has received a message.

According to the Pan American Health Organization, just 223,858 people from among the total population of almost 30 million have been fully immunized against Covid in Venezuela. The immunization plan has includes two two-dose vaccines – Sputnik and Sinopharm – and now a third vaccine, Abdala, has been added to the mix.

According to President Nicolas Maduro on Sunday, Venezuela has enough anti-Covid vaccine to fully immunize 20 percent of the population, or about six million people.

The authorities have said that 3.23 million doses of China’s Sinopharm and Russia’s Sputnik V are on hand, and in his Sunday statement Maduro did not say when the rest of the doses – enough to inoculate six million people – would be arriving.

In regard to this situation, some citizens have not been shy to comment: “Hell, vaccinate your people, man,” 62-year-old Jose Martinez spit out.

“I’ve been here since 5 am and I’ve been following that plan for five days and nothing,” he told EFE, adding that he suffers from epilepsy and has recently gotten over a “liquid retention” health issue that “almost” ended his life.

“I’m sick and they’re not vaccinating us … It’s always (show your) Homeland ID Card, Homeland ID Card. The rest of us (without cards) are also Venezuelans. Hell …” he said.

The government is using the Homeland System, a mechanism created to distribute aid and social payments in exchange for supporting the government in elections and otherwise, to schedule people for their vaccinations, along with the Web site set up by the Health Ministry.

On the other hand, EFE confirmed that Fuerto Tiuna, the main military complex in Caracas, held a vaccination day that was attended by only a few people despite the fact that – as Lidia Izaguirre, a local worker, said – “everyone who wanted to go there” was being attended to.

There, the only vaccine available was Abdala, the one that is still in the testing phase but a number of doses of which arrived in Venezuela in June. Since then, it has been criticized by the Venezuelan Academy of Medicine, which insists that, since it is an experimental medication, “it should not be administered to the public.”

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