Coronavirus: arrival in Venezuela of a first batch of the Russian vaccine

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A first batch of the Russian vaccine against the coronavirus has arrived in Venezuela, the government of Nicolas Maduro announced Friday, which intends to launch phase 3 of the trials in the coming days in Caracas.

“We are currently receiving the first batch of Sputnik V vaccine,” named after the Russian vaccine, Health Minister Carlos Alvarado said during a formal ceremony at Caracas airport.

In Venezuela, “2,000 people will participate” in phase 3, those of the vaccine trials on humans, he added, specifying that vaccinations should start this month in the Venezuelan capital.

Sputnik V was named after the first artificial satellite in history designed by the Soviet Union. No independent study could be done on Russian research and the World Health Organization has been skeptical about the actual effectiveness of the vaccine.

Some 40,000 volunteers are due to be vaccinated in Moscow in new trials in the coming weeks, and thousands more in other countries.

Venezuela had announced its intention to participate in phase 3 of the trials, as soon as the vaccine was announced in August.

Socialist President Nicolas Maduro had also proposed that the vaccine be administered to the 14,400 candidates in the legislative elections of December 6 in order to campaign “in complete safety”.

Russia is one of Venezuela’s main allies, with which it has maintained close relations since the presidency of Hugo Chavez (1999-2013), predecessor and mentor of Nicolas Maduro.

Venezuela, a country of 30 million people stuck in a serious economic crisis, has received several tons of medical supplies from Russia to help it fight the COVID-19 pandemic.

Since March, the South American country has recorded 76,029 cases of coronavirus and 635 deaths. But the opposition and NGOs, including Human Rights Watch, say these figures are intentionally underestimated.

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