Venezuela has started administering booster vaccinations against COVID-19, as the country continues its efforts to keep the pandemic under control. For the boosters, Venezuela is using China's Sinopharm and Russia's Sputniklight vaccines.
One of those getting a booster is Augusto Mancini. He went to a vaccination center in Caracas to get his third dose. The 46-year-old accountant received two doses of China's Sinopharm COVID-19 vaccine last June.
"Now with the third dose you can see, it's a lot easier than before," Mancini said. "The lines are short, and the vaccines are available. We need to do it, so we can be immunized and protected."
Venezuela began offering booster shots in January, with the government prioritizing medical personnel, the elderly, and people suffering from chronic illnesses. Now all Venezuelans over the age of 18 are eligible to get the booster.
"I haven't had COVID yet, and this will be my third dose," said Caracas resident Marco Primiani. "I can now leave my house calm and I feel protected."
For its general vaccination campaign, Venezuela has been relying on China's Sinopharm and Sinovac vaccines as well as Russia's Sputnik V and Cuba's Abdalá and Soberana. So far, about half of the population is fully vaccinated with a double dose scheme.
One challenge for Venezuelan health officials has been to get the vaccines into the country. Another challenge has been convincing people who are reluctant to get the shots, like 54-year-old Victor Contreras. He says he's contracted COVID-19 three times. But still vows not to get vaccinated.
"I'm not simply anti-vaccine. For me, these vaccines were rushed, it is an experiment," Contreras said.
As Venezuela and the rest of Latin America count the toll from the Omicron variant, epidemiologists say as the virus continues to mutate, it is more important than ever to get vaccinated.
Venezuelan epidemiologist Alejandro Rísquez believes Venezuelans have always been pro-vaccines and have recognized the benefits of them.
"One of the reasons why the population has been able to remain relatively calm in the midst of a gigantic transmission of Omicron is because the majority have benefited from the protection offered by vaccines."
Venezuela is redoubling its vaccination efforts as the Omicron variant spreads across the country. The government recently lifted all COVID-19 restrictions on businesses.