Argentina’s bid for the Sputnik V vaccine has left it in a “very critical situation” due to Russia’s failure to meet delivery commitments, according to an official letter to Moscow leaked on Thursday.
Russia owes Argentina 18.5 million doses of its Sputnik V jab, more than two-thirds of them vital second-component doses.
Only 12% of Argentines are fully vaccinated so far, in part due to failed deliveries of the second component by Sputnik. Another 37% have received a single dose.
This compares disastrously with double-dose vaccination rates of more than 60% in neighboring Chile and Uruguay, countries that did not bet as much on the Russian vaccine.
Its low two-dose vaccination rate leaves Argentina particularly exposed to the arrival of the Delta variant. Meanwhile, neighboring Uruguay has already approved the switch to a three-dose regimen.
Argentina’s dependence on the Sputnik V vaccine was accentuated by a special vaccination law passed in October 2020 that effectively made it impossible for this country to import American vaccines such as Pfizer or Moderna. Instead, Argentina has relied on a combination of shots from Sputnik, Sinopharm and AstraZeneca.
The lack of the second component of Sputnik, which has left some 6 million Argentines with just the first Russian coup, has become a charged political issue in the run-up to the midterm elections here in November.
The political uproar left the government of Peronist president Alberto Fernández with no choice but to threaten to terminate Argentina’s contract with Russia.
“You are leaving us very few options to continue fighting for you and this project,” says the letter from Covid presidential adviser Ceclia Nicolini to the Russian Direct Investment Fund, which markets Sputnik V around the world.
The letter said that Argentina needed “urgently” the delivery of second doses and warned that “the entire contract runs the risk of being publicly canceled.”
Pressure from the center-right opposition party Juntos (Juntos) recently forced Fernández to change last year’s vaccine law to accommodate the donation of the Moderna and Pfizer vaccines from the United States, a fact that was underlined in the letter to Moscow. .
“We have just issued a presidential decree that allows us to sign contracts with US companies and receive donations from the United States,” says the letter that was leaked to the newspaper La Nación.
Meanwhile, Argentina is testing mixed vaccines to replace the second dose that Sputnik has failed to deliver.
Argentina is not the only one that has problems with the Russian vaccine. Other countries have terminated or revised their contracts to buy Sputnik V amid reports of delayed shipments from Russia and allegations that a royal broker in the United Arab Emirates used Sputnik V’s exclusive resale rights to charge large margins on three continents.
Ghana’s health minister announced last week that his country had canceled its Sputnik V contract with the Dubai-based broker after it said it had been told that the supplier had “run out of stock and that they are waiting for the manufacturer to provide them. “
The middleman scheme was first revealed by the Moscow Times, which discovered in an investigation that Russia had granted exclusive resale rights to Sputnik V to a member of the lesser Emirati royalty.
Earlier this year, Kenya blocked the use of 75,000 Sputnik V hits provided through the Emirati firm due to concerns that they did not come directly from the manufacturer in Russia.
George is Digismak’s reported cum editor with 13 years of experience in Journalism