Venezuela to begin clinical trials of Cuba’s vaccine candidate

Venezuelan health minister says the nation hopes to produce enough doses of Cuban vaccine to inoculate four million people.

The government of President Nicolas Maduro expects to begin receiving vaccines from the global COVAX vaccine programme by July [Miraflores Palace/Marcelo Garcia/Handout via Reuters]

Venezuela will begin clinical trials of the Cuban coronavirus vaccine candidate Abdala this month, Health Minister Carlos Alvarado said on Monday, as the country plans to produce enough doses locally to vaccinate four million people.

Cuba in March approved late-stage trials of Abdala, named after a poem by the 19th-century Cuban independence hero Jose Marti.

The trials are to be completed in July and the first results published in August, according to Cuban state media.

“We will be starting a clinical study with this vaccine, but simultaneously, adapting our national vaccine laboratory to produce, if all goes well as we hope, doses for four million people,” Alvarado told Venezuela’s state television.

A supporter of the Venezuelan opposition wearing a face mask reading ‘Vaccines now’ during a May Day rally in Caracas on May 1 [Leonardo Fernandez Viloria/Reuters]

Alvarado spoke at Venezuela’s main airport in the capital Caracas, where he announced that the country had received another 50,000 Russian Sputnik V vaccines. He said the nation has now received a total of 1.48 million coronavirus vaccine doses.

Alvarado also said the new vaccine shipment would be used to inoculate the nation’s approximately 360,000 health workers, as well as begin the process of vaccinating older adults and at-risk individuals.

The government of President Nicolas Maduro expects to begin receiving vaccines from the global COVAX vaccine programme by July, the health minister added, without saying which vaccines would be arriving.

Maduro, whose nation’s economy is in a brutal recession marked by hyperinflation in March, said he would not allow the use of the AstraZeneca vaccine following reports of blood clotting.

Supporters of Venezuela’s President Nicolas Maduro participate in a march to commemorate May Day in Caracas, Venezuela on May 1 [Leonardo Fernandez Viloria/Reuters]

COVAX said in February that it had set aside up to 2.4 million AstraZeneca doses for Venezuela.

Official data shows that the nation is suffering from a second wave of COVID-19 infections, with a weekly daily average of more than 1,200 new infections.

There is now concern that hospitals that suffered from a lack of medicine, understaffing and blackouts even prior to the pandemic could collapse.

More than 200,000 coronavirus cases and at least 2,170 deaths have been reported in Venezuela to date, according to data collected by Johns Hopkins University.

Source: Al Jazeera and news agencies