- Guillermo D. Olmo @BBCgolmo
- BBC World News
Venezuela began this week the long-awaited vaccination against covid-19. And he did it wrapped in controversy.
President Nicolás Maduro announced that the first doses of the Russian Sputnik V vaccine had begun to be administered to the population.
Dr. Glendy Rivero, a doctor from a Los Teques hospital, was the first vaccinated, according to Maduro.
But what is known of the government’s plans to distribute the vaccine, revealed by the president at a press conference on Thursday, have caused discontent and received criticism.
Maduro announced that among the first to receive immunization would be political positions such as mayors and governors. And also deputies of the National Assembly, controlled by the ruling party and among which are his wife, Cilia Flores, and his son, Nicolás Maduro Guerra.
The opposition leader Juan Guaidó accused Maduro of not being guided by sanitary criteria, but by political ones in the distribution of vaccines.
According to official figures, until this week 134,781 people had been infected and 1,303 died with coronavirus in Venezuela since last March.
The vaccination plan
The executive vice president, Delcy Rodríguez, announced that the first phase of the vaccination campaign will last two weeks, in which part of the 100,000 doses of the Sputnik V vaccine arrived in Caracas on February 13 and for the one that the government claims to have disbursed US $ 200 million.
The authorities’ plan, according to Maduro, is to first vaccinate health workers, security personnel and political positions “who do street work,” as well as the deputies of the National Assembly.
The authorities hope to vaccinate in this first stage 7,000 frontline workers in Miranda state and another 11,000 in Caracas. Vaccination would gradually spread to the rest of the country.
Why it has caused controversy
In the speech in which he unveiled his government’s plans, Maduro justified the decision to first vaccinate political positions on the fact that several Chavista leaders have died from the coronavirus.
But different sectors of the opposition reproach the government for following the criteria of privileging those who are loyal to it, which, according to them, has been the trend in the more than 20 years of Chavista rule.
In the plan outlined by the government, older people are not on the list of the first to be vaccinated, as is the case in many other countries.
Among the deputies of the National Assembly are direct relatives of Maduro. In other countries, such as Peru, there was a stir after it was learned that prominent political leaders had been secretly vaccinated while the majority of the population is still waiting.
It is not the first time that the political conflict between Chavismo and the opposition has splashed into the field of fighting the virus.
The country has not yet received its corresponding doses as part of the Covax initiative, which, promoted by the World Health Organization, seeks to ensure access to the vaccine in less developed countries.
Paolo Balladelli, head of the Pan American Health Organization (PAHO), has called on the government and the opposition to put aside their differences to reach an agreement that allows the delivery of the Covax vaccines.
PAHO recalled on Wednesday that Venezuela must disburse US $ 18 million to guarantee receipt of the first committed doses.
The opposition, which controls a large part of Venezuelan assets abroad due to international sanctions against the Maduro government and the fact that the United States and other countries recognize Guaidó as interim president, has declared its willingness to collaborate, but not no final agreement has transpired.
Ciro Ugarte, Director of Health Emergencies at PAHO, recalled that “the number of vaccines that he would receive immediately depends on availability and also on the progress that exists within Venezuela in all aspects to be able to implement vaccination.”
Different international agencies and NGOs have pointed out the difficulties that vaccination will have to overcome in a country hit by a serious economic crisis and in which many health centers and hospitals lack a stable supply of water and electricity.
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Eddie is an Australian news reporter with over 9 years in the industry and has published on Forbes and tech crunch.