Venezuelan President Nicolás Maduro has announced that he will ask for volunteers to test the Covid-19 vaccine developed by Russia.
Russia was the first country to officially register a vaccine against the coronavirus on August 11.
experts questioned whether he had undergone the necessary tests.
The Venezuelan government, which has received billions of dollars in loans from Russia, said it would be willing to participate in clinical trials.
Call for volunteers
“In the coming days, we will ask for volunteers to be vaccinated,” President Maduro announced on Sunday.
Russian scientists had said preliminary trials of their vaccine were successful – although the approval of the vaccine by regulators comes before the completion of a larger study involving thousands of people.
Maduro’s statement says Venezuela has no volunteers yet, suggesting that Health Minister Carlos Alvarado jumped the gun when he said 10 days ago that Venezuela had proposed to Russia ” 500 volunteers to participate in vaccine trials ”.
The Venezuelan government has also said it is ready to participate in testing Chinese and Cuban vaccines against Covid-19.
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China and Cuba, along with Russia, are staunch allies of Nicolás Maduro, whose government is increasingly isolated after more than 50 countries, including the United States and the United Kingdom, recognized his rival Juan Guaidó as interim president.
Mr. Guaidó, who heads the National Assembly – the only institution in Venezuela to be controlled by the opposition – declared himself interim president in January 2019 after the election that returned Mr. Maduro to power was largely overwhelmed. considered neither free nor fair.
Mr. Maduro, who has the backing of the security forces, has remained in the presidential palace and largely controls the country, but US sanctions have left his government dependent on loans from Russia and its other remaining allies.
After Russia announced that it had registered the Covid-19 vaccine, which it dubbed Sputnik V, Mr Maduro congratulated it on its success.
He also said he would be the first to get the vaccine. “The first to be vaccinated will be me. I will get vaccinated, I will lead by example, ”he said on August 16.
However, speaking on Sunday, he did not say whether he would be among the 500 Venezuelan volunteers.
Venezuela has fewer than 50,000 recorded cases of coronavirus and 381 deaths, a toll far lower than other countries in the region.
But immunologists say the real figure could be much higher, as many Venezuelans do not get tested for fear of stigmatization after the government blamed returning migrants for the spread of Covid-19.