CARACAS (Reuters) – Venezuela has approved the use of China’s Sinopharm vaccine against the novel coronavirus, the South American country’s health ministry said on Monday, after it began administering Russia’s Sputnik V vaccine last month.
The ministry did not specify how many Sinopharm doses it would acquire or when they would arrive. President Nicolas Maduro had previously said the country was in talks with China over the possible use of its vaccines.
“Thanks to the cooperation between China and Venezuela we are able to attend to the health and life of our people,” the ministry wrote on Twitter.
Venezuela has said it received the first 100,000 doses of Sputnik V on Feb. 13, and has invested $200 million to buy 10 million doses in the country of some 25 million.
An advisor to opposition leader Juan Guaido – recognized by dozens of countries as Venezuela’s legitimate president – said last week the country could begin receiving coronavirus vaccines via the global COVAX program in May. Maduro has not publicly confirmed that government officials have been involved in those talks.
The once-prosperous OPEC nation is experiencing a dramatic economic collapse that has left its healthcare system in a shambles.
Venezuela’s National Academy of Medicine said on Monday that the country has secured enough vaccine supplies to inoculate some 38% of the population, the second-lowest level in Latin America and ahead of only El Salvador.
Official data shows Venezuela has reported 139,116 coronavirus cases and 1,344 deaths. Opposition politicians question those figures, arguing testing has been insufficient.
(Reporting by Vivian Sequera in Caracas and Luc Cohen in New York; editing by Richard Pullin)