Venezuela’s gov’t continues Covid-19 booster rollout amid criticism

By Sarai Coscojuela

Caracas, Jan 21 (EFE).- Venezuela’s government is pushing ahead with its rollout of Covid-19 booster shots to combat the Omicron coronavirus variant, although it is coming under criticism for alleged non-compliance with its immunization schedule and a purported lack of vaccine data transparency.

Leftist President Nicolas Maduro unveiled his administration’s booster plan on Dec. 23, the same day in which he confirmed the first Omicron cases in the country.

The rollout formally began on Jan. 3, with Health Minister Carlos Alvarado saying that health care workers in direct contact with Covid-19 patients would be the first to receive the shots, followed by other medical sector personnel.

Next in line, in order, were to be those 60 and older, people under the age of 60 with a comorbidity that could increase their risk of complications from the virus and those who deal directly with the public.

Finally, the rest of the population were to be given access to the booster shots starting in February as long as it had been more than six months since they had received their second dose of a Covid-19 vaccine.

Alvarado also said booster doses would be available initially at hospitals, clinics and Comprehensive Diagnostic Centers (ambulatory care) before being distributed to other health centers nationwide.

Yet from the start of the new rollout Efe observed people of all ages and walks of life receiving their third dose at a non-medical facility – the five-star Hotel Alba Caracas.

The Monitor Salud health care workers’ union, meanwhile, has urged the government to ensure that all hospitals receive the vaccine booster shots, citing a study covering 63 hospitals nationwide that found only 46 of them had received the booster doses and that in a quarter of those the general population was being vaccinated along with health care personnel.

In that regard, it stressed the need to provide preferential treatment to medical staff considering they are exposed to Covid-19 carriers on a daily basis.

In an earlier report last year, Monitor Salud said 6,114 health care workers had contracted that potentially fatal respiratory illness.

And according to figures from the non-governmental organization Medicos Unidos de Venezuela, 815 health care workers died in the Caribbean nation between the start of the pandemic there and Dec. 31, 2001.

Maduro also has come under criticism for an alleged lack of transparency surrounding vaccine data.

The president has said that around 95 percent of the adult population is vaccinated and that the country is on course to achieving its goal of 100 percent immunization.

But in providing those figures he has not specified whether those percentages refer to people who have received a single dose of the vaccine or a full two-dose primary series.

On Dec. 16, Deputy Health Minister Gerardo Briceño said just 55 percent of Venezuela’s population had received the two doses needed to be considered fully vaccinated. EFE


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