From Russia with love

Paraná’s MoU with Russia puts them in pole position for Russian COVID-19 vaccine candidate.

Brazil has been signing preliminary deals with all countries and companies with advanced vaccine candidates. On 12 August 2020, the regional government of the state of Paraná in Brazil signed a memorandum of understanding (“MoU”) with Russia to collaborate on the third stage of tests for the Russian Sputnik V COVID-19 vaccine developed by the Gamaleya Institute in Moscow. The MoU was ratified by Ratinho Júnior, governor of Paraná, representatives of the Health Ministry of Brazil and representatives of the Embassy of Russia in Brazil.

Some critics smirked but the partnership led to a working group in which Russian investigators shared their findings with the government of Paraná and the Brazilian federal executive. The MoU also contemplated the possibility of Paraná becoming a production centre for the vaccine in the future. The critics were silenced when, on 4 September 2020, the prestigious medical journal The Lancet published test data that revealed the Russian vaccine had taken a major first step towards validation. On the same day, the government of Paraná announced that it will submit a request to the National Health Surveyance Agency (“Anvisa”) of Brazil to start tests by the end of September.

“We will study all protocols to register medicines to study their security and efficiency.”

Advisor to Anvisa.

An advisor to the Director General of Anvisa told us, “Anvisa has been holding meetings with Paraná government officials, but we have also been meeting with other institutions throughout the country that are developing other vaccines against COVID-19.” The Director General was keen to stress, “we do not focus on commercial and trade interests.” This contrasts with the Head of the Institute of Technology of Paraná (Tecpar), who said that “Paraná aims to become the entry point for the eventual cure of the disease in Brazil.”

Although Russia is not a strategic partner for Brazil on the same level as China and the US are, both countries remain on good terms since the creation of the BRICS bloc in 2009. In January 2020, Sergei Lavrov, minister of Foreign Affairs of Russia, called for the inclusion of Brazil in the UN Security Council to better reflect the interests of developing countries – and dilute the power of traditional hegemons.

“Paraná aims to become the entry door of the eventual cure to [COVID-19] in Brazil.”

Head of the Institute of Technology of Paraná.

Despite the lack of formal institutionalisation and common agenda between both countries Russia and Brazil still keep multiple levels of cooperation functional, as shown in the agreement between Paraná and the Russian Government. In this context, if Anvisa gives the green light to start testing the Russian Sputnik VI vaccine in Brazil, the country will become one of the central stages in the geopolitical race between global powers to get the first COVID-19 vaccine.

Brazil, traditionally a neutral country in the international arena could stand to benefit from staying friends with everyone, the Anvisa source concluded, “We will study all candidates to study their security and efficiency, so that we can help advance hopes for a COVID-19 cure.”

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