Venezuela rolls out Covid-19 vaccine boosters as Omicron arrives


By Paul Dobson

Mérida, ( – The Venezuelan government has started a vaccine booster campaign to counter the recent arrival of the Omicron coronavirus variant.

An estimated 570,000 healthcare workers are due to receive the additional dose from Monday, with other at-risk sectors to be progressively attended to, including 3.6 million elderly and 2 million adults with various health conditions.

State workers, police and security personnel and those who work with the public are to be included in the campaign’s second phase, while booster shots for the general population who have been fully vaccinated for at least six months will begin in February.

After blockade-related complications in purchasing Covid-19 vaccines during 2020, health minister Carlos Alvarado assured the country that “over 18 million vaccines are guaranteed” last week, potentially covering around 55 percent of the population. He went on to detail that Venezuela already has 6.7 million doses of Russia’s Sputnik Light vaccine, and 12.7 million of China’s Sinopharm are due to arrive this month. Alvarado also claimed that the country is due to begin local production of Cuba’s Abdala vaccine shortly.

Authorities announced 144 new Covid-19 cases and two additional deaths on Sunday, bringing the totals to 445,000 and 5,333, respectively. The first seven cases of the Omicron variant were detected in late December in passengers arriving from the UK, Colombia and other destinations.

“We have to fight so that the Omicron variant doesn’t take over the country and we can start 2022 with an active economy, an active country,” president Nicolás Maduro told reporters during his end-of-year address on New Year’s Eve. His latest comments followed earlier statements affirming that there was “no international scientific report that establishes the real threat of this variant.”

According to Maduro, 91 percent of the population has been vaccinated and cases are down to five in every100,000 people. The president went on to explain that this reported success was due to having “sown consciousness” in the population and not having relied on “restrictive measures or curfews.” He also downplayed rumors that more relaxed quarantine measures during December were to be reversed in the New Year.

Health authorities’ Covid-19 figures are, however, considered to underestimate the real situation given a lack of testing, amongst other factors. NGOs and international agencies have likewise claimed that vaccination totals are lower than officially reported.

For his part, health vice-minister Gerardo Briceño offered more precise data on December 16, telling reporters that 82 percent of the population had received one dose and only 55 percent were fully vaccinated.

Read more: Maduro optimistic for 2022


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