Vaccination against COVID-19 in Venezuela is developing in a haphazard manner, with no certainties. For several months, the regime of Nicolás Maduro has been immunizing health personnel, government officials, deputies and friends of the government, regardless of age and in compliance with the recommendation of the World Health Organization (WHO) to prioritize the elderly.
Health unions affirm that the vaccination of those who are part of the health sector is around 40%, although the Executive Branch has given figures of over 90%. The truth is that there are doctors still waiting for the jab, which has been done with the Russian Sputnik V and the Chinese Sinovac.
After a test carried out in April with 500 elderly people, it has now been confirmed that the next stage has begun, in which the elderly are called by SMS messages to be immunized. This is a random selection of those who are registered in the Patria System, an official platform of the regime created in 2017 through which pensions, public sector salaries are paid, cash bonuses are assigned and gasoline consumption is controlled.
The “massive vaccination” will be for people registered by the Sistema Patria, where there would be more than 21 million names. But not all Venezuelans are or want to be registered in this platform, which is also used by the government for electoral purposes. Faced with complaints of political discrimination, the regime has activated a separate registry through the Ministry of Health, but the website is unstable, prevents the completion of the process and so far no one of those who have completed it has been called. Priority is only for “patriots”.
Maduro’s government has not formally published the national vaccination plan. A leaked document from the Health Office confirms that it will be carried out in only 77 places, of which 30 have not been installed (in Venezuela there are 530 clinics and hospitals), with a daily application estimated between 600 and 1,000 doses, which would cover only 35% of the population.
But the numbers that are worth for those who hope to receive the drug are counted in hours, those who have to wait to be injected. Since Saturday, in front of the dismantled Alba Caracas hotel, in the center of the capital, long lines of those who aspire to enter one of the 42 cubicles are deployed. Alí divides those over 60 years old who received the SMS and those who arrived spontaneously when they saw the news. There is always the question of whether they are registered in the Patria System.
Due to disorganization, Sunday’s operation ended in a brawl. The situation did not change on Monday and Tuesday, although waiting times were reduced. From 10 hours to 3 hours of waiting in the open, in the best of cases. Much of the logistics were entrusted to government party activists.
Disinformation is the protagonist. Through Whatsapp there are lists of vaccination centers where people go and find that there are no drugs against covid-19. Those who received the first dose in May, now doubt where they should go for the second dose.
Nicolás Maduro promised last December that before March there would be 10 million Venezuelans vaccinated. In May he said that by August 70% of the population would be immunized. Minister Alvarado reiterated the percentage but set the goal in December.
A little more than one million Chinese and Russian vaccines have arrived in Venezuela, but it is not known how many have been applied. Maduro has said that in July the Cuban Abdala (still considered a “vaccine candidate”) would start to be used, and that he expects the Covax mechanism to provide the country with the Johnson & Johnson vaccine as from that same month, after rejecting the AstraZeneca vaccine which could have been delivered since last April.