Vaccine races

Argentina begins Sputnik V vaccinations.

The COVID-19 pandemic has hit Argentina hard and the government’s only real policy has been the confinement of the people. The result has been 1,600,000 infected, and more than 43,000 deaths making it one of the countries with the highest infections and deaths per million inhabitants globally. Additionally, the drop in GDP in 2020 will be close to 11%, again one of the worst worldwide.

Argentina reached an agreement several months ago to be the regional producer of the Oxford/AstraZeneca vaccine and it also seemed to have reached an important agreement with Pfizer. However, the Pfizer deal fell through, and the production of the Oxford/AstraZeneca vaccine is delayed.

This has led the government to reach an emergency supply agreement for the Russian vaccine, the first 300,000 doses of which have already arrived in the country and are being administered. Some critics of the government argue that the agreement with Russia is part of a strategic decision by Argentina regarding its foreign policy. More specifically, they maintain that it is part of Cristina Kirchner’s masterplan and an example of her influence over the government – Kirchner has historically given in to Putin, even in her most difficult moments.

A Professor of International Relations in Argentina does not believe there will be any geopolitical fallout, “Argentina cannot fully align itself with Russia and I don’t think the purchase of the Sputnik V vaccine means that it will have to. Nor will it be aligned with the UK if it buys the Oxford vaccine, or with the US if it buys Moderna.

Argentina cannot fully align itself with Russia and I don’t think the purchase of the Sputnik V vaccine means that it will have to.”

Professor of International Relations, Argentina

Meanwhile, Argentina has continued to advance the production of the Oxford/AstraZeneca vaccine, has resumed negotiations with Pfizer, and is trying to guarantee access to the Chinese vaccines to. Despite this, there is a feeling of vulnerability in Argentina, there is a sense that the government is scrambling to provide itself “with whatever it can get.” A political analyst in Buenos Aires commented, “The purchase of vaccines has been the same as every other recent government policy: there is no strategy.”

“The purchase of vaccines has been the same as every other recent government policy: there is no strategy.”

Political Analyst, Buenos Aires

In the rest of the region, the provision of the Russian vaccine can hardly have a significant geopolitical impact. Only Venezuela, and some other smaller countries are acquiring the Sputnik V vaccine. But it must be taken into account that, due to its low production capacity, Russia has signed agreements with different countries, including Brazil. In this way, it would be setting foot in 3 countries that, for different reasons, play an important role in the region: Brazil, Argentina and Venezuela.

Perhaps, as some say, it is just Russia’s way of telling the scientific and political community that they’re back. Which, in the case of Russia, would still be meaningful.

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