Argentina and Russia’s president formally announced Friday that pharmaceutical company Laboratorios Richmond SA will start producing the Sputnik V Covid-19 vaccine.
Presidents Vladimir Putin and Alberto Fernández spoke in a webcast event to kick off the vaccine’s production in Buenos Aires Province. Ties between the two nations have deepened after the Peronist leader agreed to buy the Sputnik vaccine, developed by Russia’s Gamaleya Institute.
Argentina was at one point the only country outside of the former Soviet Union to inoculate its citizens with the shot.
“In Argentina, we say we get to know our friends in difficult times,” Fernández said at the event. “And when we were going through a difficult time, the Russian government, Russia’s sovereign fund and the Gamaleya Institute stood by our side.”
Argentina bet big on Sputnik last year as talks with other labs hit snags and production of the AstraZeneca vaccine in Latin America faced major delays. The country has received 8.9 million Sputnik doses this year, accounting for nearly half of its total vaccines, including 7.79 million doses of the first shot, and 1.14 million of the second.
The campaign faced public scepticism until a peer-reviewed study by The Lancet medical journal said the vaccine protects against the deadly virus about as well as US and European shots, and far more effectively than Chinese rivals. Now, critics caution against growing delays in receiving the second dose to complete the inoculation process.
Before Argentine pharmaceutical regulators even approved the Russian vaccine in December, Fernandez had already sent a plane from state-run Aerolíneas Argentinas to Moscow to pick up the first batch. In total, the airline has sent more than 15 passenger planes since December to Russia on 40-hour journeys to pick up vaccines.
Fernández, who received both Sputniks jabs himself, set expectations high last December, promising to vaccinate 10 million Argentines with Sputnik before the end of February, a threshold vaccinations only crossed in recent days.
by Patrick Gillespie, Bloomberg