Venezuelan students demand vaccination plan amid spike in COVID-19 cases

Scores of Venezuelan healthcare students protested Tuesday in front of Caracas’ University Hospital demanding a national vaccination plan and 100% vaccination coverage for doctors and nurses, amid a spike in infections that has led the government to extend lockdown measures.

FILE PHOTO: Workers look at the shipment of Russia’s Sputnik V vaccine against the coronavirus disease (COVID-19) at the airport, in Caracas, Venezuela March 29, 2021. REUTERS/Manaure Quintero/File Photo

With 30 million inhabitants, Venezuela’s vaccination campaign is behind most other countries in the region.

It has received about 500,000 doses of China’s Sinopharm vaccine and 250,000 from Russia’s Sputnik V, of which authorities said they expect the arrival of another 30,000 shortly.

Venezuelan health authorities reported this week that some 200,000 health workers have been inoculated, although medical unions point out the sector has at least 1 million workers.

Union representatives maintain that at least 442 surgeons, nurses, and other workers have died from coronavirus since March 2020, when the South American country detected the first cases.

“Health personnel are at risk (…) a vaccination plan is urgently needed,” said Jesus Mendoza, president of Venezuela Central University’s (UCV) student dental center, the country’s largest.

President Nicolas Maduro’s government “believes we are condemned to die,” Mendoza told reporters at the hospital’s entrance where the group of pharmaceutical, bioanalytical and other medical students set black bags filled with paper on which they placed posters that read “dead doctor.”

“The figures that Nicolas Maduro does not want to publish… are that not even a million vaccines have reached Venezuela,” Mendoza said.

Venezuela’s information ministry did not immediately reply to a request for comment.

Irma Gudino, head of the hospital morgue, said this was not the way to protest because it could mislead the public to believe there would be no room to treat them or their family, as some medical unions have reported, when she said this was not the case.

The protest seeks to “generate fear and confusion in society,” said Gudino, adding that COVID-19 did not have a political ideology.

Venezuelan authorities reported 1,425 new coronavirus cases and 15 deaths on Monday for a total of 167,548 infections and 1,678 deaths officially registered from March 2020 until this week.