CARACAS (Reuters) -Venezuela is interested in acquiring the Johnson & Johnson coronavirus vaccine for its inoculation campaign, parliament chief Jorge Rodriguez said on Monday, adding that authorities want to know more about its side effects.
The COVAX global vaccine program has set aside doses of the AstraZeneca shot for Venezuela, but the government of President Nicolas Maduro blocked its use after reports of rare but serious blood clots led some European nations to temporarily stop delivering it.
Though similar rare side effects have also emerged in association with the J&J shot, it offers a lower cost and easier logistics than other vaccines because it is administered in a single dose, he said.
“There was a certain amount of noise with respect to the Johnson & Johnson vaccine, that is the vaccine we are looking for at the moment,” Rodriguez said during an interview in the legislative palace. “We have to wait to see what the studies say.”
The U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention and the U.S. Food and Drug Administration last week recommended resuming use of the J&J shot after a 10-day pause to investigate its link to extremely rare but potentially deadly blood clots.
Venezuela’s government for months held talks with advisers to opposition leader Juan Guaido about paying for COVAX using funds frozen in the United States as part of Washington’s sanctions against Maduro’s government.
Officials this month said they had made two payments for the complete amount owed. Rodriguez said as a result, Venezuela has now decided on the COVAX option that allows countries to choose which vaccine they want, even though this will cost more.
“At the same time, President Maduro is looking in other markets, in secondary markets, … with the governments of the countries and also with private intermediaries for the acquisition of vaccines,” Rodriguez said.
Venezuela is also interested in the vaccine manufactured by China’s Sinopharm, Rodriguez said.
The World Health Organization by the end of the week will review the Sinopharm vaccine for possible emergency use listing.
China in February said it plans to provide 10 million doses of COVID-19 vaccines to COVAX, including from Sinopharm.
Venezuela so far has received 880,000 vaccine doses, 380,000 of Russia’s Sputnik V shot and another 500,000 of China’s Sinopharm.
The South American nation has reported relatively low numbers of coronavirus cases and deaths.
Venezuelan academies of medicine and science this year said this was the result of early lockdown measures as well as gasoline shortages in 2020 that limited citizen mobility along with spread of the disease.
(Reporting by Brian Ellsworth and Deisy Buitrago; Editing by Bill Berkrot)