Venezuelans turned away for 2nd shots due to vaccine shortages, groups warn

CARACAS – Venezuelans are being canceled due to a dose shortage of appointments to get their second shot of the coronavirus vaccine, groups representing the South American country’s doctors and nurses warned on Monday.

Venezuela, with a population of around 28 million, has only 0.8 percent of its total population fully vaccinated, which is far below many of its counterparts in the region, Reuters data shows. It began its mass vaccination campaign in late May, prioritizing the elderly and health workers, amid long lines and confusion.

Now, some patients eligible for a second dose – recommended three weeks after the first for both vaccines Venezuela is delivering, Russia’s Sputnik V and China’s Sinopharm – are turned away due to lack of care despite appointments, said Jamie Lorenzo, director of advocacy of doctors United for Venezuela.

“Before you begin a vaccination process, you need to be sure that the vaccine is available so you won’t run out once you start,” Lorenzo, a general surgeon who oversees the grouping of approximately 4,000 health workers in the country, told reporters.

Venezuela’s Ministry of Information did not immediately respond to requests for comment. President Nicolas Maduro’s administration, which oversaw a profound economic crisis, blames US sanctions for the country’s difficulties in obtaining vaccines.

A second shot of either vaccine will still help boost immunity, even if it’s delayed for up to 90 days after the first, Lorenzo said. But denying the second dose to patients with appointments adds to a sense of “anarchy” at mass vaccination sites, he said.

Ana Rosario Contreras, president of the nursing school in Caracas, called the vaccine supply situation “grim” and urged Maduro to procure more doses.

Venezuela has officially reported around 260,740 coronavirus cases and 2,958 deaths, although many specialists believe the real numbers are higher.

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