Venezuelans’ patience wearing thin over slow vaccine rollout

Caracas, May 28 (EFE).- Venezuelans took to the streets Friday to demand the government come up with a viable and effective plan for immunizing the population against Covid-19 and to express their frustration over delays and a perceived lack of transparency in the process.

Missed deadlines, unrealistic figures and promises that have come to naught were some of the complaints of the demonstrators, who were told last October by leftist President Nicolas Maduro that a mass vaccination drive would begin this April.

But that start date was subsequently pushed back, and the government now says it won’t be until September or October that the pandemic is brought under control via a major inoculation push.

Maduro’s administration has blamed harsh sanctions put in place by the former president of the United States, Donald Trump, for the vaccine delays, although a select few were immunized ahead of schedule.

Those individuals include Maduro, who was seen on public television receiving his first dose of Russia’s Sputnik V vaccine on March 6.

National Assembly lawmakers, including Maduro’s wife, Cilia Flores, and his son, Nicolas Maduro Guerra, also were inoculated at roughly the same time.

But the wait continues for health-care personnel, a priority sector that has seen government officials and Maduro’s allies go to the front of the line regardless of their age or lack of risk factors.

The president of the Caracas Nurses’ Association, Ana Rosario Contreras, was among those demonstrating Friday to demand transparency, truth and urgent action to save lives.

“It’s important to attend to the humanitarian tragedy affecting the Venezuelan people; Venezuelans are dying from a lack of medical attention due to severely strained hospitals,” said the nurse and rights activist, who has not been vaccinated despite putting her life at risk on a daily basis.

Contreras also demanded truthful official reports on the Covid-19 situation in Venezuela, saying that her daily experience in the hospital does not correspond to what officials are saying on camera from their offices.

“I have to tell the health minister (Carlos Alvarado) that the first thing he needs to do is tell the country the truth. When he said 90 percent of health workers are vaccinated, he’s referring to Caracas, but Caracas is not Venezuela,” the nurse said.

“I invite him to go to Portuguesa, where an upswing in Covid cases has caused a state of alarm, where the hospitals are collapsed, where the nurses have no protection; or to go to Barinas state (where) the nurses are covering themselves with black bags, go to Aragua where the staff (level) is at 40 percent,” she added.

Contreras said she and other protest participants are calling for a transparent, nationwide vaccination plan that spells out its objectives and scope and is published in writing, adding that Venezuelans have “the right to know what the impact of the plan is.”

The population thus far is unaware of how many vaccine doses have arrived in the country, how many have been administered to date, which age groups, states and sectors (apart from politicians) have received them and other details on the immunization rollout.

The real number of coronavirus cases and deaths since the onset of the pandemic also is a matter of dispute, with the government putting those totals at 228,828 and 2,576, respectively, despite skepticism from the opposition and health care workers, some 600 of whom have died of Covid-19.

And the mistrust continues to grow among the citizenry, many of whom have seen family members get sick or die without receiving treatment at public hospitals that lack available beds.

The government, meanwhile, continues to count the number of patients treated at health centers and public and private hospitals yet does not indicate how many were not admitted to any facility and either recovered or died at home. EFE


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