Venezuelan doctors and scientists urge COVID-19 vaccination increases as cases bite

CARACAS, (Reuters) – Yesterday Venezuela’s top academies of medicine and science urged renewed efforts to vaccinate the South American nation’s population against the coronary virus-infected infection that has led the government to extend lockout measures.

The pandemic was significantly less severe than expected in Venezuela in 2020 because of a widespread gasoline shortage that restricted vehicle movement, the National Academy of Medicine and the National Academy of Physical, Mathematical and Natural Sciences said in a joint statement.

But Venezuela now faces a “worst case scenario” of limited vaccine availability, along with an increase in infections following the relaxation of quarantine measures during the Christmas and Carnival holidays, academies said.

“Vaccination in Venezuela needs to be accelerated urgently, along with increasing (in) diagnostic and genomic surveillance capability that will allow continuous monitoring of the virus and mitigation of future waves of infection,” the statement said.

The intelligence ministry did not immediately respond to a request for comment.

Venezuela’s vaccination campaign is behind most other countries in the region.

It has received about 500,000 doses of the Sinopharm vaccine from China and about 250,000 from Sputnik V of Russia, from which authorities said last week that they expect another 30,000 to arrive soon.

President Nicolas Maduro’s government has held talks with opposition leaders to get vaccines through the COVAX program using frozen funds in the United States.

But those efforts have been compounded by Maduro’s refusal to receive the AstraZeneca vaccine following reports of blood clotting. COVAX said this year it is setting aside doses of the AstraZeneca shot for use in Venezuela.

Maduro on Sunday extended coronary virus lockout measures for an extra week after the country registered a record two infection rates.

Venezuela on Sunday reported 15 deaths and 1,786 new infections, the highest since the start of the pandemic. It has reported 166,123 cases and 1,662 related deaths.