Venezuela's academy of medicine asks U.S. to donate COVID-19 vaccines

A woman holds a small bottle labelled with a "Coronavirus COVID-19 Vaccine" sticker in this illustration taken, October 30, 2020. REUTERS/Dado Ruvic/File Photo

CARACAS, May 10 (Reuters) - Venezuela's main academy of medicine has asked the United States to add the South American nation to its international donor list for millions of doses of COVID-19 vaccines, despite a political freeze between the two countries.

Enrique Lopez-Loyo, president of the politically independent National Academy of Medicine, made the request to U.S. Ambassador to Venezuela James Story at a meeting on May 2, the academy said in a statement on Monday.

"To control the pandemic in our country, we need to vaccinate around 70% of the adult population, nearly 15 million people, in as little time as possible," the academy said in the statement. "The amount of vaccines that have arrived to Venezuela ... represents less than 10% of what Venezuela needs."

Venezuela has received around 1.4 million vaccines from China and Russia, according to the Health Ministry, and hopes to receive doses for about 5 million people from the World Health Organization's (WHO) COVAX program.

The academy is a member of the Venezuelan government's round table developing a response to the coronavirus crisis for its 30 million people.

The academy's plea, however, for U.S. supplies of AstraZeneca PLC (AZN.L) vaccines runs contrary to the government's refusal in March to authorize the vaccine because of reports of blood clotting in some recipients.

The academy's request also comes amid U.S. sanctions on Venezuela to protest the re-election of President Nicolas Maduro in 2018 in elections it, and many other nations, viewed as fraudulent. Venezuela blames Washington's sanctions for its economic woes.

Story, appointed at the end of last year, is based in Bogota, Colombia, because of the rupture in relations.

The academy said Story responded to its request, saying the United States valued the independence of the academy and it looked "forward to working with all like-minded parties in the search for a solution to this crisis."

Venezuela's information ministry did not immediately respond to a request for comment.

Venezuela has reported a total of around 209,000 COVID-19 cases, including some 2,300 deaths.

Reporting by Vivian Sequera, writing by Sarah Kinosian; editing by Jane Wardell

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