CV. Venezuela is collapsing without COVID-19 vaccines

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Correspondencia publicada en The Lancet, por los Dres.: Enrique S López Loyo, Marino J González, José Esparza. Fecha: May 15, 2021. DOI: https://doi.org/10.1016/S0140-6736(21)00924-7

Once considered a rich oil-producing country, Venezuela is confronting a rapidly increasing COVID-19 epidemic that adds to a complex humanitarian crisis that has been affecting the country since 2016.1 The health-care system has collapsed and is incapable of responding to the ever-increasing number of patients who require hospitalisation. Health-care personnel, including doctors, nurses, and other first-line health staff, have been substantially affected by the epidemic, leading to the highest lethality reported in the Americas.2 A desperate population is resorting to self-medication with unproven therapies, including the officially promoted so-called miraculous drops, a natural product that promises to be an infallible preventive and cure for the disease.3

While many other countries in the Latin American region negotiated, well in advance, for the procurement of vaccines and are already implementing vaccination programmes, the Launch and Scale Speedometer shows that Venezuela did not. To our knowledge, Venezuela does not have a known national COVID-19 vaccine plan, and the supply of vaccines is spasmodic, insufficient, and unplanned. On Feb 18, 2021, 200 000 Sputnik V vaccines were received with great fanfare, followed by a donation on March 11, 2021, from China of 500 000 doses of the Sinopharm vaccine, plus an additional batch of 50 000 doses of the Sputnik V vaccine that was received on April 15, 2021. On March 22, 2021, Venezuelans were informed that additional batches of vaccines had been received: two Cuban vaccine candidates (30 000 doses each of Soberana-2 and Abdala, which are undergoing clinical trials in Cuba) and one from Russia (1000 doses of EpiVacCorona).4 Although the Venezuelan Government announced the purchase of an additional 10 million doses of the Sputnik V vaccine on Dec 29, 2020, that purchase has not materialised. The number of doses that have arrived so far in Venezuela is insignificant compared with the need to vaccinate 15 million people or 70% of the adult population in the country. No official information is available on the number of vaccine doses administered thus far, but we believe it is less than 200 000, with very few used to protect health-care personnel.

Venezuela’s National Academy of Medicine is supporting ongoing efforts to bring vaccines to Venezuela via the COVID-19 Vaccine Global Access (COVAX) Facility, and other alternatives, to ensure that Venezuelans are not denied their human right to health and equitable access to safe and effective COVID-19 vaccines that are prequalified by WHO. International collaboration and cooperation are urgently needed to avoid a rapidly increasing humanitarian catastrophe in Venezuela. We declare no competing interests.

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