Venezuela warns CELAC distribution mechanisms of COVID-19 vaccine should be considered for countries under blockade

Ministers of People’s Power for Foreign Affairs and Health, Jorge Arreaza and Carlos Alvarado, participated on Monday in a virtual meeting of the Community of Latin American and Caribbean States (CELAC), where the Governments of Argentina and Mexico presented the project of an experimental vaccine against COVID-19.

In his speech, Minister Arreaza congratulated the initiative and highlighted that “these are times of Latin American unity. Our peoples need our union beyond ideological differences. I hope we can have enough tolerance and maturity to protect our community, which is very important. It is a value that goes beyond any political stance.”

Arreaza affirmed that Venezuelan joins Mexico’s and Argentina’s initiative, together with the private sector.

“We want to participate in all processes,” proposed Arreaza, who also said that solidarity must prevail in CELAC regarding the vaccine.

In this regard, Arreaza proposed to consider the production capacity of the CELAC member countries and the technology transfer that should accompany the process as a fundamental tool to strengthen health systems and their future.

Likewise, he suggested to take into account other COVID-19 vaccine options under development, such as Russia’s Sputnik V project and the scientific capacity of the People’s Republic of China.

The Venezuelan diplomat also stressed that distribution mechanisms for this vaccine should be considered in countries of the region under blockade and unilateral coercive measures such as Venezuela, where British company AstraZeneca, responsible for the manufacture of the vaccine, was one of the first companies to leave the country as a consequence of the U.S. illegal sanctions.

“Some sort of anti-blockade mechanism should be considered within the distribution scheme of the vaccine to guarantee it will be universally accessed by the Latin American and Caribbean people,” insisted the Venezuelan foreign minister.

He also requested an explanation on how the development of this vaccine is linked to the Covax Fund, the World Health Organization and the Pan American Health Organization and its revolving fund.

Regional Cooperation

Marcelo Ebrard, Mexico’s secretary of Foreign Affairs, said that “Latin America will have its vaccine” against COVID-19 and that the cooperation that makes it possible will save lives.

Felipe Solá, Argentina’s foreign affairs minister, pointed out it is a Latin American project for Latin Americans, which gives the region self-esteem and hopes in the mid-term to overcome the disease caused by novel coronavirus.

Alicia Bárcena, CELAC’s executive secretary, described the announcement of a new vaccine as “an extraordinary initiative of regional cooperation” and offered the entire support of the multilateral organization to the project as technical secretariat of the Regional Meeting of Ministers and High-level Authorities of Governing Bodies of Science, Technology and Innovation of the region.

Likewise, Rebeca Grynspan, Ibero-American secretary-general, highlighted that the confinement due to the pandemic have given time to science for research and to “improve our cooperation and deepen our solidarity.”

Grynspan said that the vaccine puts into practice the plan of action outlined at the inauguration of Mexico’s Pro Tempore Presidency early this year about the promotion of scientific cooperation and common consolidated purchases in order to obtain favorable conditions of quality, prices and financing.

The vaccine project is led by AstraZeneca together with the University of Oxford. Argentina will be in charge of production, and packaging will take place in Mexico.