Venezuela won't accept AstraZeneca Covid-19 vaccine through Covax

Venezuela has only authorised the use of the Russian Sputnik V vaccine and the one produced by Chinese company Sinopharm. PHOTO: AFP

CARACAS (AFP) - Venezuela's Vice-President said on Wednesday (March 24) the South American country would not accept the AstraZeneca vaccine against Covid-19 if it was offered it by the World Health Organisation's global Covax initiative.

The AstraZeneca shot has suffered from poor publicity after several European countries and others around the world suspended its use last week over fears it could cause blood clots.

It's been declared safe by both the WHO and Europe's medicines regulator EMA.

"It's clear that Venezuela will choose through the Covax mechanism what vaccine it will authorise for the Venezuelan people," said Delcy Rodriguez.

Venezuela has so far only authorised the use of the Russian Sputnik V vaccine and the one produced by Chinese company Sinopharm.

On March 15, Venezuela informed the Pan American Health Organisation (Paho) that it would not accept the AstraZeneca vaccine, despite having ordered between 1.4 and 2.4 million doses of it through Covax, the initiative aimed at ensuring an equitable distribution of coronavirus vaccines.

None of those vaccines have yet been delivered to Venezuela due to outstanding debts it has with the WHO.

To try to resolve the issue, Venezuela President Nicolas Maduro asked the Paho to help liberate US$300 million (S$403 million) blocked in the Bank of England due to sanctions against Venezuela.

Maduro's difficulties come at a time when opposition leader Juan Guaido has said he will allocate US$30 million of Venezuelan state funds frozen in the United States due to Washington sanctions against the Maduro regime to the fight against the pandemic.

Washington has handed control of the funds to Guaido who plans to use it to pay for access to the Covax mechanism and to invest in the cold chain necessary to vaccinate against Covid-19.

Venezuela began vaccinating health workers in February but has released few details about its immunisation programme.

According to official figures, strongly questioned by the opposition and NGOs, Venezuela has registered just under 150,000 coronavirus cases and a little under 1,500 deaths.

Authorities, though, have become concerned recently about a rise in infections and the appearance of the highly contagious Brazilian strain of the virus.

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