Venezuelan President Nicolas Maduro. AFP
Venezuela hopes to produce two million doses per month of a Cuban coronavirus vaccine, President Nicolas Maduro said on Sunday.
The South American country will also take part in Phase 3 trials for the Abdala vaccine produced by its socialist ally.
“We’ve signed an agreement to produce in our laboratories... two million vaccines a month of the Abdala vaccine... for August, September, approximately,” said Maduro in a television address.
Earlier in the week, the government claimed that it would have already purchased the 30 million vaccines it needs but for economic sanctions, led by the United States.
That brought a rebuke from opposition leader Juan Guaido, who accused the government of lying and blamed Maduro for Venezuela’s lack of vaccines.
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Cuba has developed four vaccines that are in various stages of clinical trials.
The island nation has already started vaccinating its health care workers with its two vaccines still in the third phase of clinical trials.
One of those is Abdala, which is being given to 124,000 health care workers, while 48,000 volunteers are taking part in a parallel Phase 3 clinical study.
Should it be approved, Abdala would be the first Covid-19 vaccine entirely developed and produced in Latin America.
Venezuela’s vaccine rollout has been slow, with the country receiving just 250,000 Russian Sputnik V vaccine doses and half a million from China’s Sinopharm to date.
Maduro said his government would also sign deals to produce vaccines “with Russia, with China and with other countries.”
The government said it had paid just over half of the amount it needs to acquire 11.3 million doses through the World Health Organization’s Covax mechanism.
Officially, the country of 30 million has had 175,000 cases and some 1,700 deaths, but observer groups such as Human Rights Watch question the numbers, which they say are likely vastly underestimated.
Maduro in January described Carvativir, an oral solution derived from thyme, as a “miracle” medication that neutralizes the coronavirus with no side effects, a claim doctors say is not backed by science.
Cuba has two homegrown vaccines, Abdala and Soberana, that it says are safe and effective. Both require three shots. In previous weeks, the government started vaccinating people between 11 and 18 years old.
Several doctors in Cuba have taken to social media to decry shortages of medicine, oxygen and other materials needed to battle a dire COVID-19 outbreak, in a rare public denunciation of conditions in the island’s hallowed healthcare system. The outcry comes in
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