Venezuela’s Maduro: ‘The U.S. Left the Rest of the World Without Vaccines’

Venezuelan President Nicolas Maduro gestures while speaking during a press conference at Miraflores Presidential Palace in Caracas on February 17, 2021. - Venezuela will start its vaccination campaign against COVID-19 on February 18, after the arrival of the first 100,000 doses of Russian Sputnik V vaccines, including in this first …
YURI CORTEZ/AFP via Getty Images

Venezuelan dictator Nicolás Maduro complained on Thursday at an event allegedly meant to address public education that the United States had hoarded the world’s supply of Chinese coronavirus vaccines, addressing a European incident involving British-Swedish company Astra-Zeneca.

At a televised event branded “every family a school” – meant to celebrate Venezuela’s alleged virtual school program that has replaced its dilapidated education system throughout the pandemic – Maduro claimed his illegitimate regime would soon begin administering vaccine-like products from Russia, China, and Cuba, and claimed socialist rulers are cutting deals for large shipments of vaccines. He did not clarify what, if any, obstacle the United States had placed in the way of the alleged inoculation program.

“The vaccine will continue with much seriousness,” Maduro claimed, referring to the inoculation program. “Now you guys have seen a meeting of the European Union where they declared an emergency due to lack of vaccines in the world. The U.S. has monopolized all the vaccines. They have taken them for themselves and left the rest of the world without vaccines.”

“The European Union has been able to advance just 20 percent of the initial [vaccination] plan. There is a significant vaccine shortage,” Maduro continued. “We are working with the Chinese vaccine, the Russian vaccines, now in April the experiments for the two Cuban vaccines, Soberana 02 and Abdala, will begin in Venezuela with the idea that in July we will be conducting mass immunizations with Abdala.”

The European Union is indeed struggling to meet vaccine demand in its respective states, but there is little evidence that the United States or any of the three approved vaccines made in America – by the companies Pfizer, Moderna, and Johnson & Johnson – played any role in the shortages. The E.U. held a summit on Thursday to discuss vaccine distribution that devolved into states accusing more powerful members of hoarding doses away from smaller countries.

“When member states have a lot less vaccines available to them than others, then I think this is a big issue for Europe,” Austrian Chancellor Sebastian Kurz objected. ”This could cause damage to the European Union like we haven’t seen in a long time.”

According to the Associated Press, Kurz lobbied the multinational body to reassess its distribution mechanism to ensure more equitable access to vaccines in light of shortages that some blamed on over-reliance on Astra-Zeneca, as opposed to American companies.

“The problem has been Astra-Zeneca,” the head of the European Commission health agency, Sandra Galina, stated plainly two days before the E.U. summit. Galina explicitly stated that Pfizer and Moderna had fulfilled the commitments in their contracts to supply vaccines to the European Commission, but Astra-Zeneca owed as much as 75 percent of what it had promised in an advanced agreement in August.

Astra-Zeneca is also facing mounting concerns over the safety of its vaccine product – which has not been approved by the American Food and Drug Administration (FDA), meaning the E.U. is not competing with the U.S. to secure doses – after several countries paused administration of the vaccine product over potential evidence of it causing blood clots.

The U.S. National Institutes of Health issued a statement this week adding to suspicions, stating independent study monitors “expressed concern that Astra-Zeneca may have included outdated information … which may have provided an incomplete view of the efficacy data” in its latest study release.

The Astra-Zeneca debacle has created an opening in the European market for Sputnik V, a Russian-made coronavirus vaccine candidate approved by leader Vladimir Putin in August 2020 prior to completing Phase III clinical trials. Putin, a professional intelligence officer and judoka, has no background in medicine or science. The Russian Direct Investment Fund (RDIF) announced this month that it had reached agreements with companies in Italy, Spain, France, and Germany for the domestic production of Sputnik V in their respective countries. Several eastern European countries – with the notable exception of Ukraine, which banned the product – have also purchased doses of Sputnik V.

Maduro did not detail any of the background regarding Europe’s scramble to vaccinate its population during Thursday’s broadcast. He concluded by declaring, “Venezuela is the most aggrieved, assaulted, and threatened country by the American empire on the whole of planet – harassed, persecuted every day, and here we are on our feed because we want our nation to be free.”

The Maduro regime has not ruled Venezuela legitimately since January 2019, when Maduro’s last presidential term ended and the National Assembly used its constitutional power to remove Maduro and replace him with President Juan Guaidó. Guaidó has failed to exercise any of his constitutional powers save for installing ambassadors in countries hostile to the socialist dictatorship, so Maduro has continued to govern the country in practice.

The Maduro regime claimed this week that, by Friday, 50,000 teachers in the country will have received some form of coronavirus immunization. Maduro regime-run VTV did not clarify exactly which vaccine or vaccine candidate these individuals had received, though the network has vocally promoted the two Cuban-made vaccine candidates, Abdala and Soberana 02, which have yet to receive approval anywhere in the world.

Follow Frances Martel on Facebook and Twitter.

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