The Vice President of Venezuela, Delcy Rodriguez, at a press conference on April 7 in Caracas.MANAURE QUINTERO / Reuters
Venezuela will manufacture the Cuban-origin vaccine Abdala against covid-19 in a state laboratory in Caracas, still in the second phase of clinical trials, in cooperation with the Government of Havana.
The vice president, Delcy Rodríguez, also announced this week that the country has finally managed to access the advance required by the Covax mechanism, supported by the World Health Organization, with the aim of acquiring some 11 million doses that correspond to 20% of the vaccines that Venezuela needs to immunize its population.
The other 60 million dollars that are needed for the rest of the vaccines are guaranteed, according to the spokesperson for the Executive of Nicolás Maduro.
"We have been accompanied by the Cuban delegation to this plant to verify that all the conditions are in place for the production of the Abdala vaccine in our country," Rodríguez declared in a televised broadcast from Espromed Bio, the Venezuelan state laboratory for biological medicines. and vaccine production, without specifying an exact date or the monthly doses they hope to develop.
The Venezuelan Minister of Health, Carlos Alvarado, commented that a binational commission discussed options to make "adjustments in the plant" that would guide the projected work.
Both Rodríguez and Alvarado praised the link between Cuba and Venezuela as an example in the international arena and affirmed that establishing this pact makes possible the “mass” manufacture of vaccines against covid.
"Venezuela is looking for all possible alternatives for access to vaccines, and this is one of the most important options due to the brotherhood relationship we have with Cuba," said Alvarado.
The minister assured that the agreements to bring Sputnik V, from Russia, and Sinopharm, from China, are still in force.
These announcements are released at a time when anxiety is growing in the South American country over the delay in the publication of an official vaccination plan, which had been promised for the month of April.
The Maduro government has vetoed the entry of the AstraZeneca vaccine while holding international sanctions and opposition leader Juan Guaidó responsible for blocking resources for immunization.
Instead he has opted for the experimental vaccines of Cuba: the Sovereign 02 and the Abdala.
The second wave of the pandemic in the country has collapsed health centers.
Official figures report more than 172,000 cases and more than 1,700 deaths, although practically all sources agree that the underreporting is at least four times higher.
Venezuela has so far acquired only 750,000 vaccines.
The doses have been applied to Maduro, the government's political-military elite and medical personnel.
The resources enabled to finance the Covax mechanism have been the result of a complex process of negotiations between a mixed team made up of representatives of Maduro and Guaidó, which has allowed the unlocking of some national funds frozen in the framework of international sanctions on the regime. chavista.
However, the Maduro government has not wanted to appear publicly agreeing on anything with its enemies, and has continued to hold the Venezuelan opposition and the United States responsible for the delay in vaccines and the country's serious financial insolvency.
The National Academy of Medicine of Venezuela had warned in March that the country "suffers a serious epidemic of covid-19 and, instead of participating in tests of experimental products with unknown characteristics, it should prioritize the brought to the country of vaccines of recognized safety and efficacy ”.
The Abdala is one of the four vaccine projects being carried out by the Government of Cuba.
Phase three to obtain its patent, which would consolidate the clinical studies that support its efficiency, would begin now that the agreements with Venezuela have been formalized.
“There are no studies published in any of its phases in serious journals, although the WHO recently accepted it as a prototype of a vaccine against covid”, assesses Amadeo Leyba, a surgeon specializing in pediatrics and public health.
“The Abdala vaccine is a recombinant protein (brewer's yeast) and uses tetanus toxoid as a carrier.
I doubt that with the chaos in public health at the moment in Venezuela vaccines can be massively manufactured.
Expectations should not be generated that will not be met, ”he says.
The Espromed Bio laboratory was created in 2014, already in the days of Maduro, as a successor to the Vaccine Production Plant attached to the National Institute of Hygiene.
Its installed capacity is 120 million doses per year.
"The Espromed Bio facilities were in the past a research center, not so much for viruses, but for bacterial processes, with a more or less artisanal production of vaccines," says Carlos Walter, a medical specialist at the Center for Studies for the Development of the Central University of Venezuela and Minister of Health in the 1990s.
"Chávez put many resources into this institute, with advice and Cuban presence," he concedes, expressing his reservations about the current state of the Empromed-bio laboratories amid the general bankruptcy of the public administration in force in the Maduro years.
Leyba predicts that the government will go ahead with the Cuban vaccine, and will do everything possible to align itself with supplies from Russia and China to ideologically guide its conduct on this issue.
"They are going to impose the Cuban vaccine, in this type of model political fanaticism prevails over reason," he says.
“Let the businessmen forget that they are going to allow them to bring vaccines, as has been commented.
For these leaders, vaccines will become a power and in the case of Cuba, a model solidarity ”.
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