Maduro says Venezuela to receive first COVAX vaccines this week

A general view shows the city of Caracas
A general view shows the city of Caracas, Venezuela March 3, 2019. REUTERS/Carlos Jasso

CARACAS, Sept 5 (Reuters) - Venezuela this week will receive the first coronavirus vaccines obtained via COVAX, President Nicolas Maduro said on Sunday, following months of stalled attempts to obtain inoculations through the global vaccine program.

The South American nation has been inoculating its population with doses acquired directly from China and Russia, following months of delays in making payments to COVAX that Maduro has attributed to U.S. sanctions.

"This week, the first vaccines from the COVAX mechanism will arrive," Maduro said in an interview with state television. "We hope the COVAX mechanism accelerates, such that in October they deliver the vaccines for an estimated 6 million Venezuelans."

He added that Venezuela this week will also begin receiving shipments of the second dose of the Russian Sputnik V vaccine, following complaints from citizens that they had only been able to obtain the first.

Maduro's government for months said it had been unable to pay for the vaccines due to U.S. sanctions meant to force him from power, but in April announced it had deposited most of the funds in a Swiss bank account.

Venezuela's government is currently holding talks in Mexico with opposition leaders to resolve a long-running political standoff and ease the country's humanitarian crisis caused by an economic collapse that has worsened under U.S. sanctions.

Authorities on Friday released former legislator Gilberto Sojo, who was arrested in February, and on Saturday freed Yovanny Salazar, a politician from the central state of Guarico, who had been arrested in October.

Maduro on Sunday said the talks in Mexico would help improve the country's situation, but also described the opposition delegation as "politicians dependent on the pronouncements of the United States."

Reporting by Brian Ellsworth Editing by Marguerita Choy

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