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CARACAS, Venezuela, Tues. Dec 29, 2020 (Reuters) – Venezuela has signed a contract with Russia to acquire enough of the Sputnik V coronavirus vaccine to inoculate 10 million people in a first phase, Vice President Delcy Rodriguez said on Tuesday.

Venezuela began administering the vaccine to about 2,000 people in October as part of a clinical trial. The once-prosperous OPEC nation is suffering a severe economic crisis marked by a weak health system and deterioration of basic services such as electricity and running water.

“This is a safe vaccine, it is a step forward,” Rodriguez said on state television, accompanied by Moscow’s ambassador to Caracas, Sergei Melik-Bagdasarov.

The announcement comes as Argentina began to vaccinate its citizens against COVID-19 using 300,000 doses of the Russian Sputnik V vaccine delivered last week.

Venezuela, with a population of more than 25 million, has recorded some 112,636 coronavirus cases and 1,018 deaths from the virus, according to official statistics.

(Reporting by Mayela Armas in Caracas Writing by Luc Cohen, Editing by Angus MacSwan)

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