Venezuela announces acquisition of 12 million Cuban vaccine doses

Venezuela’s government on Thursday announced it had signed a contract to acquire 12 million doses of a Cuban coronavirus vaccine that is allegedly 92 percent effective but is still awaiting approval from health authorities.

The Abdala vaccine has completed its three phases of clinical trials but has yet to be given the all-clear either by Cuba’s health authorities or the World Health Organization.

“We are grateful that this vaccine will be incorporated into Venezuela’s immunization program and we’ve signed a contract for the supply of 12 million Abdala vaccine that we will receive over the coming months,” Venezuela’s Vice-President Delcy Rodriguez said.

Rodriguez was on hand at Maiquetia international airport just outside Caracas to receive the first batch of doses alongside Cuba’s ambassador to Caracas, Dagoberto Rodriguez.

“Millions more doses will arrive,” said the Venezuelan official, without specifying how many were in the first batch.

Cuba’s state pharmaceutical company BioCubaFarma announced on Monday that the Abdala vaccine was over 92 percent effective against the coronavirus.

If approved it will be the first coronavirus vaccine created and produced in Latin America.

Cuba has also developed another vaccine called Soberana 2 and last week said it was 62 percent effective after two doses, although authorities envisage three will be needed for all vaccines made on the island nation.

In April, Venezuelan President Nicolas Maduro announced the country would produce two million doses per month of the Abdala vaccine in August and September.

Venezuela hopes to immunize 70 percent of its population of 30 million this year and has previously acquired the Russian Sputnik V and Chinese Sinopharm vaccines.

Authorities have come under fire for the country’s slow vaccine rollout, which it blames on US economic sanctions but which the opposition says is due to incompetence.