Argentina Puts Faith in Russia Vaccine, With President First in Line

Argentina said it has secured doses to begin administering Russia’s Sputnik vaccine before year-end and and that President Alberto Fernandez will be the first to take it.

The government is planning to give the shot to 10 million vulnerable Argentines before March, Fernandez said on Thursday, when his administration marks its one-year anniversary. There’s an option to boost the campaign with an additional 5 million doses in March, he said, adding that local regulators still need to approve the vaccine’s use.

Sputnik has been rolled out in Russia but hasn’t undergone local trials in Argentina. It hasn’t yet been adopted by many countries, unlike shots being produced by AstraZeneca Plc and Pfizer Inc.

“I’ll be the first to take the vaccine, I’ll do it before anyone else so no one is afraid of it,” Fernandez told reporters at the presidential palace.

The government also plans to receive other vaccines, including those distributed as part of the Covax global alliance, in March.

Argentina ranked second-last of 53 countries in Bloomberg’s Covid Resilience Ranking of the best places to be during the pandemic. In a ranking of 120 countries with the biggest outbreaks, Argentina ranks 9th in Covid-19 deaths per capita, the second-worst outcome in Latin America after Peru.

Russia has applied for Sputnik’s approval in 40 countries, according to Kirill Dmitriev, the head of Russian Direct Investment Fund that backs the vaccine. The inoculation will cost about $20 for a course of two shots and will be produced in Russia, India, South Korea and several other countries. Fernandez said it’s not yet clear where Argentina’s doses will come from.

Russia has received orders for 1.2 billion doses for 2021. Sputnik’s effectiveness is 91.4%, according to an interim report published late November. Mass vaccination started in Russia this week, with 150,000 people inoculated so far.

— With assistance by Stepan Kravchenko

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