By Barbara Agelvis
Caracas, Jun 1 (EFE).- Venezuela is continuing on Tuesday to work against the clock to reach its goal of vaccinating 70 percent of the population, an effort that apparently received a big push on the weekend under a segregated system of “privileges” involving the identity card pushed by the socialist Chavista government.
Six months after the Nicolas Maduro government’s first announcement that it had received vaccine – a total of 10 million doses – from Russia, Venezuela has only managed to vaccinate “a little more than a million” people, although not all of them have received the Russian vaccine since China also contributed a number of doses, although the precise figure remains a secret.
To fulfill its promise, Health Minister Carlos Alvarado said, about three million doses of vaccine must be administered per month among the population of about 30 million and, to do that, the government is planning to expand tenfold the 27 immunization centers it established on the weekend.
According to Maduro, the goal will be met, although he has made clear that it depends on the arrival of vaccine that – he said – has already been agreed to and paid for, but Venezuela, just like other countries, must wait its turn for delivery.
The immunization program seems to be relatively advanced, albeit under a system questioned by assorted sectors, which – just as the Health Ministry says – is being handled via the Homeland System, which does not include all Venezuelans, since registration in it is voluntary.
“The Health Ministry reports that the process of selection to receive the vaccine against Covid-19 is random and gradual and (citizens) will be notified via an SMS (text) message to the telephone number registered in the Homeland System,” the minister said via Twitter on Sunday.
The vaccination effort will progress, according to this method, in accord with a parallel census that the government uses to deliver social aid, but the opposition says that this is a system whereby the public is blackmailed with an eye toward voting for the government party in elections.
In addition, both the opposition and the health workers’ union say that the system is being used at the convenience of the government to immunize its supporters first and so they are complaining that vaccination is being politicized and is partisan.
However, the authorities defend the method saying that there are 21 million people who are part of the Homeland System and that it is not being used in a political way but rather to help the public.
The government says that all Venezuelans will be vaccinated, even if they have not joined the Homeland System, since a digital registry has been established through the Health Ministry that will be aligned with the System’s algorithm.
The vaccination centers are not necessarily hospitals, but also include municipal offices as in the Caracas municipality of Baruta, along with certain hotels.
The head of the Baruta Municipal Council, Chavista supporter Georgette Topalian, told EFE that in her district the center was set up because the facilities “are a little more centrally located” and, thus, “it’s easier” to prevent “people who are infected” from being there.
“The System (determines who is next in line for vaccination using) an algorithm of comorbidities … and after they’re vaccinated you get a card and it tells you where you got vaccinated, it has the health authorities’ seal and the lot number of the vaccine that they gave you,” Topalian said.
She, and the health minister, urged people to trust the system, saying that it features “planning and organization … (to) improve the quality (of life) for Venezuelans.”
“We have a responsibility as citizens and there are regulations and there’s planning … There’s a system of investment and planning that … you can trust,” she said.
However, the method remains questioned by many because the people who are dispersing the majority of the “aid” associated with it are members of the governing PSUV party.
Venezuela is among the Latin American countries with the fewest percentage of its people who have been vaccinated, according to national and international organizations.
Not all the healthcare personnel in Venezuela have even been vaccinated, and doctors in states like Carabobo have been asked to show their “Homeland card” before they can get immunized.
According to the United Doctors of Venezuela NGO, just 42 percent of the country’s doctors have received at least one dose of anti-Covid vaccine.