Vaccination rates have steadily increased in Venezuela in recent months, with the assistance of the WHO-linked COVAX initiative and the support of multilateral institutions such as the Pan-American Health Organization (PAHO) and UNICEF. On October 9, the second shipment of vaccines acquired through COVAX arrived in Venezuela, bringing the total number of vaccines delivered to the country through the COVAX mechanism to 3,288,000 so far.

In the early hours of Sunday, October 9, a shipment of 2,594,000 COVID-19 vaccines developed by Chinese pharmaceutical giant Sinopharm arrived at the Maiquetía airport outside of Caracas, with Venezuelan Health Minister Carlos Alvarado stating that distribution of those vaccines would begin on Monday and Tuesday of this week. The first shipment from COVAX consisted of 693,000 doses of the Sinovac vaccine and arrived in Venezuela on September 7. These initial shipments come after GAVI confirmed that the Maduro government had completed the necessary payment to access vaccines through COVAX in July, after months of complications in processing the payment in part due to U.S. sanctions on Venezuela. In total, COVAX has agreed to provide 12,068,000 vaccines to Venezuela, or enough to inoculate 20% of the country’s population. The distribution of vaccines acquired via COVAX has been advised and overseen by PAHO and UNICEF, which have provided equipment to store and preserve vaccines, support in the printing and issuance of vaccination cards, and assistance in communicating information about the vaccine to different sectors of the population. Venezuela has also acquired millions of vaccine doses from China, Russia, and Cuba outside of the COVAX mechanism.

Though the government recently claimed that over half the population has been vaccinated, PAHO reports that only 21.6% of Venezuela’s population has received both doses. Still, this marks a considerable increase from previous months; in May it was reported that less than 1 percent of the population had received the shot. This brings the total population of Venezuelans who have received at least one dose of the vaccine to 34.5 percent. However, health experts have reported hundreds of thousands of Venezuelans waiting months to get their second dose of the Sputnik V vaccine, or never being contacted to schedule a second appointment at all. Meanwhile, Venezuela is currently experiencing its highest weekly spike in new cases since the pandemic began last year. The Maduro government has yet to publish a comprehensive vaccination plan.

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