“With faith and in the name of God”, Elide Maldonado entrusts herself before receiving the first dose of Abdala in Caracas, without further information about this experimental vaccine against the coronavirus developed in Cuba and that it has not yet been approved not even by the island’s authorities.
Doctors in Venezuela They do not hide their concern and they launched harsh criticism for the application of this serum that does not yet have the approval of the World Health Organization.
Maldonado put aside the doubts that made him question the puncture in a small auditorium set up for vaccination days in Fuerte Tiuna, the main military complex in the Venezuelan capital.
“That the vaccine was not working, I don’t know what. But no! One thing you have to do is go online, find out, find out and have faith,” this 46-year-old preschool teacher told the AFP agency.
I also had no major options in a country where the vaccination plan works slowly and haphazardly.
A nurse shows an empty vial of the Abdala vaccine, in a military complex converted into a vaccination center in Caracas. Photo: AFP
The Cuban state laboratory that developed Abdala maintains that it is 92% effective, but Venezuelan doctors, NGOs and the opposition are skeptical about this product, what still waiting for authorization from WHO and even from the Cuban regulatory agency.
“As it is an experimental product, it should not be applied to the general population, since there is no information on its effectiveness,” the main medical academies in the country warn in a joint statement.
Venezuela, with almost 30 million inhabitants, registered some 270,000 cases of covid-19 with 3,101 deaths, according to official figures, amid complaints that the real figures must be much higher. And the vaccination plan progresses slowly.
According to the Pan American Health Organization (PAHO), 1.2 million people received the first dose in Venezuela, while only 224,000 received the second.
So far the Russian vaccine is applied Sputnik-V and the one from the Chinese laboratory Sinopharm, while the government negotiates the purchase of vaccines through the WHO Covax system, after vetoing the AstraZeneca for possible side effects.
The vaccination plan started in February, but only a month ago it began to spread to dozens of centers throughout the country.
A man receives the first dose of the Abdala vaccine, in Caracas. Photo: AFP
Dose purchases and donations
Now comes the Abdala, from which the government of Nicolás Maduro announced that it had bought 12 million doses to Cuba, one of its main allies.
A donation from Havana of 30,000 doses arrived last week. It will be allocated to 10,000 people, as this possible vaccine requires three applications.
“Would you get vaccinated with that? I think the answer is obvious,” the opposition leader Juan Guaidó lashed out on Tuesday.
“If that vaccine is approved by the international scientific community, well, welcome. We Venezuelans should not be guinea pigs,” he warned.
At Fort Tiuna, Cuban medical personnel received officials, the military, and expectant civilian neighbors with masks, who passed by in small groups.
Delays and shocks in vaccination
The auditorium that hosted the conference is one of the three points enabled in the complex, a first vaccination site with Abdala In Venezuela, which started its application last Saturday.
The Cuban vaccine Abdala is already being applied in Venezuela, despite criticism from medical organizations. Photo: AFP
Mariucy Bravo did not know her. “I heard it was just now,” acknowledges this 21-year-old subway worker, when she received the call on WhatsApp in the morning.
“Regardless of whether it is the Russian, the Chinese or the Cuban, I believe that people should be vaccinated,” weighs Andrés Febres, a 25-year-old merchant who waits in silence for adverse reactions to the inoculation, sitting in a stands next to thirty other people.
The young man dismissed rumors from his acquaintances that “they have not done it out of fear” and preferred to accept the Abdala to continue waiting for a vaccination shift assigned by the State.
Those over 60 receive Sputnik-V, but it was impossible for Victor Ilarraza, 78.
“They called me to get the Russian vaccine, but I went several times: that if there was no vaccine, that the numbers were finished, one has to arrive at 3 in the morning (to stand in line) “, he says.
Abdala, which he calls “reliable”, was then his alternative: “I don’t think the government is going to bring this vaccine for bringing it …”.