Long lines and confusion as Venezuela begins COVID-19 vaccination  

Senior citizens and health workers wait to receive their first dose of Russia's Sputnik V vaccine against the coronavirus disease (COVID-19), outside the hotel Alba Caracas, which was turned into a mass vaccination centre, in Caracas, Venezuela May 31, 2021. REUTERS/Leonardo Fernandez Viloria


May 31, 2021

CARACAS (Reuters) - Hundreds of senior citizens and health workers stood in long lines on Monday to get vaccinated against the coronavirus as part of Venezuela's inoculation campaign, which has been held up by payment problems and political disputes. 

The government of President Nicolas Maduro for months said it was unable to pay for vaccines due to U.S. sanctions, but last month announced it had come up with the funds to enter the global COVAX program. 

The campaign that officially began over the weekend is using vaccines provided by Russia and China. Reuters data shows that only 1.1% of the population has received at least one vaccine shot so far.

"A little more information is required. We get very confused, which is to be expected due to impatience," said Luis Gonzalez, 90, a retiree, after receiving his first dose of the Russian Sputnik V vaccine on Monday at the government-owned Hotel Alba in Caracas.  

Around 20 cubicles were arranged in a spacious room on the ground floor of the hotel where health authorities expect to administer the first dose to 1,000 people by the end of Monday, said Dr. Rhode Longa, the site coordinator.

Two blocks from the hotel, Coromoto Teran, a 47-year-old homemaker, stood in line after learning about the effort via neighbors. But upon reaching the hotel, she was told she did not have the "right to vaccination" because she was neither a health worker nor a senior citizen, the two current target populations.

The Health Ministry has not offered details on the total number of people it has vaccinated. The Information Ministry did not immediately reply to a request for comment.

Some officials have said vaccines will be provided to those holding the "Fatherland Card," a government identification system which some say is used to discriminate against government critics. But others said they were able to get vaccinated without it.

Coronavirus pandemic