Argentina’s bet on the Sputnik V vaccine has left it in a “very critical situation” due to Russia’s failure to meet its delivery commitments, according to an official letter to Moscow leaked Thursday.
Russia owes Argentina 18.5 million doses of its Sputnik V jab, including more than two-thirds of the life-saving doses of the second component.
So far, only 12% of Argentines are fully vaccinated, in part due to the failure of Sputnik deliveries of its second component. 37% received only one dose.
This compares catastrophically with double-dose vaccination rates of over 60% in neighboring Chile and Uruguay, countries that have not relied as much on the Russian vaccine.
Its low rate of vaccination in two doses leaves Argentina particularly exposed to the arrival of the Delta variant. Neighboring Uruguay, meanwhile, 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 which effectively made it impossible for this country to import American vaccines such as Pfizer or Moderna. Argentina instead relied on a mixture of fire from Sputnik, Sinopharm and AstraZeneca.
The absence of Sputnik’s second component, which left some 6 million Argentines with just the first Russian coup, has become a loaded political issue in the run-up to midterm elections here in November.
The political uproar has left the government of Peronist President Alberto Fernández with no choice but to threaten to end Argentina’s contract with Russia.
“You leave us very few options to continue fighting for you and this project,” said the letter from Presidential Advisor Covid Ceclia Nicolini to the Russian Direct Investment Fund, which markets Sputnik V worldwide.
The letter said Argentina needed the delivery of second doses “urgently” and warned that “the entire contract was in danger of being publicly canceled”.
Pressure from the center-right opposition party Juntos (Ensemble) recently forced Fernández to amend last year’s vaccine law to allow the donation of Moderna and Pfizer vaccines from the United States, a fact that has been underlined in the letter to Moscow.
“We have just published a presidential decree that allows us to sign contracts with American companies and receive donations from the United States,” said the letter that leaked to the daily La Nación.
Argentina is testing mixtures of vaccines to replace the second dose that Sputnik was unable to deliver.
Argentina is not alone in having problems with the Russian vaccine. Other countries terminated or revised contracts to purchase Sputnik V amid reports of shipping delays from Russia – and allegations that a royal intermediary in the United Arab Emirates used the rights exclusive resale of Sputnik V to invoice significant mark-ups on three continents.
Ghana’s health minister announced last week that his country had canceled its Sputnik V contract with the Dubai-based middleman after saying he was told the supplier was “out of stock and waiting. that the manufacturer supplies them ”.
The middleman’s ploy was first revealed by The Moscow Times, which found in an investigation that Russia had awarded the exclusive resale rights of Sputnik V to an Emirati royal miner.
Earlier this year, Kenya blocked the use of 75,000 Sputnik V jabs supplied through the Emirati company over concerns that they were not coming directly from the manufacturer in Russia.