After Delays, Venezuela Pays $64 Million for COVAX Vaccines

April 11, 2021 Updated: April 11, 2021

Venezuela has paid $64 million, half of the required amount, for doses it is set to receive through the United Nation’s COVAX program, Vice President of the Maduro regime Delcy Rodriguez announced Saturday on state television.

“You know that the COVAX mechanism requires an advance—Venezuela has even doubled the required advance,” said Rodriguez, adding that the government had deposited “59.2 million Swiss francs in the accounts of GAVI,” a co-leader of the COVAX program that seeks to improve low-income countries’ access to vaccines.

Rodriguez did not specify what funds the Maduro regime used to pay for the vaccines.

In recent months, the country’s internationally recognized leaders in the opposition and various civil organizations have been pushing the regime to purchase more vaccines via COVAX. However, the regime delayed any purchase even after being accepted into the COVAX program last year, saying that the necessary funds were frozen in the United States in an effort to confuse Venezuelans, opposition leader Juan Guaidó said on Saturday.

Guaidó said that the delay has cost lives, and the excuse of U.S. sanctions was to confuse the populace.

“They preferred to delay what is an urgency to lie and cheat … Through the facts, the regime recognized what we always maintained: there is no blockade or sanctions that prevent the purchase of vaccines,” Guaidó said.

“The demand of Venezuelans, the pressure of civil society and the actions of the National Assembly and the Legitimate Government, have made the regime take a first step for Venezuela to join COVAX,” he added.

Vaccination efforts in Venezuela have also been complicated by Venezuelan socialist leader Nicolas Maduro’s refusal to accept the AstraZeneca vaccine following reports of blood clotting elsewhere. COVAX this year said it had set aside doses of the AstraZeneca shot for use in Venezuela.

In her announcement, Rodriguez said Venezuelan health authorities were evaluating which vaccines the country would accept, especially considering various variants of the coronavirus, particularly the variant that originated in Brazil.

The vice president disclosed that in September 2020, the socialist government entered into the agreement for over 11 million doses, which can vaccinate around 20 percent of the population.

Rodriguez added that the remaining $60 million worth of vaccines were now “guaranteed.”

COVAX expects to deliver at least 2 billion doses this year and to diversify the offering beyond the AstraZeneca/Oxford and Pfizer/BioNTech shots it is currently supplying.

Epoch Times Photo
An elderly woman receives a dose of Russia’s Sputnik V coronavirus disease (COVID-19) vaccine in Caracas, Venezuela on April 9, 2021. (Leonardo Fernandez Viloria/REUTERS)

Venezuela’s vaccination campaign is behind most other countries in the region.

It has received about 500,000 doses of the Sinopharm vaccine from China and about 250,000 of Russia’s Sputnik V, of which authorities recently said they expect the arrival of another 30,000 shortly.

The opposition said that it has been pushing for the COVAX mechanism over Chinese and Russian vaccines as it’s “first choice for offering affordable, safe, high quality and internationally certified vaccines.”

Maduro has extended coronavirus lockdown measures several times as the country continues to register high rates of infections.

As of Friday, Venezuelan authorities had registered 172,461 coronavirus cases and 1,739 deaths. Medical unions say the number of cases and deaths are likely much higher.

The Epoch Times contributed to this article.