Venezuela’s Maduro open to private COVID-19 vaccine to dodge US sanctions

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President Nicolas Maduro said he’s open to allowing private companies to import and sell Covid-19 vaccines in Venezuela as the nation prepares to kick off vaccinations with the Sputnik V vaccine Thursday.

Purchasing vaccines through the private sector is “not a bad idea in the midst of our battle against sanctions, Maduro said in a news conference Wednesday, saying medical and security personnel as well as “street facing politicians would be among the first to be inoculated.

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About 100,000 doses of the Russian Sputnik-V vaccine arrived in Caracas on Saturday, as part of a deal for 10 million doses set to arrive within the first months of the year for which the country paid $200 million, Maduro said Wednesday.

Despite the US’ claims that humanitarian aid is exempted from restrictions, its sanctions have prevented Venezuela from accessing overseas funds or wiring money needed to purchase vaccines, Vice President Delcy Rodriguez said on Saturday.

Venezuela, which has reported just 133,000 coronavirus cases and 1,292 deaths even amid the collapse of the country’s health-care system, is in talks with the Pan-American Health Organization to buy “more than 15 million vaccines with proceeds from the sale of gold held at the Bank of England, Maduro said. The government is in talks with the opposition since the overseas funds can’t be unblocked without its backing.

Under the terms of that deal, PAHO and Unicef would have strict supervision of the vaccination plan as well as the refrigeration chain needed to keep the vaccines within the required temperature range.

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