Venezuela has announced that it will not authorise AstraZeneca’s COVID-19 vaccine after several European countries suspended their rollouts of the jab due to possible side effects.
“Venezuela will not authorise the use of the AstraZeneca vaccine in the process of immunising our population due to complications” in vaccinated patients, Vice President Delcy Rodriguez said on public television on Monday.
“Taking into account the technical difficulties, President Nicolas Maduro had decided … not to approve and not to license this vaccine in Venezuelan territory.”
Venezuela – which began its coronavirus vaccination campaign in February with Russia’s Sputnik V and China’s Sinopharm jabs – had reserved between 1.4 and 2.4 million AstraZeneca doses through the COVAX plan created by the World Health Organization (WHO) for the poorest countries.
None of those vaccines, however, has arrived due to Venezuela’s debt to the WHO.
Maduro recently asked the Pan American Health Organization (PAHO) to release $300m from the Bank of England – blocked by sanctions imposed on Venezuela and its state oil company PDVSA in an attempt to overthrow the socialist leader from power.
The move is a blow to the global vaccination campaign and comes despite the WHO’s assurances about the safety of the AstraZeneca vaccine.
The WHO will convene its group of experts on Tuesday to study the vaccine’s safety, but the organisation’s chief scientist has already recommended the jab’s continued use.
The Netherlands suspended its AstraZeneca distribution programme on Sunday, as well as Ireland, after a report from Norway of four new cases of serious blood clots in vaccinated adults.
On Monday, Germany, France, Italy and Spain followed suit after several reports of blood clots in people who received the shot in Europe emerged.
The flurry of suspensions on Monday came after a number of other countries, mostly in Europe, halted their release programmes late last week.