President Alberto Fernández said Thursday he would be the first person in Argentina to be injected with Russia's Sputnik V coronavirus vaccine in order to dispel public fears.
"I will be the first to be vaccinated so that no-one need be afraid," Fernández said at a press conference at the Casa Rosada on Thursday, at which he announced the purchase from Russia of enough Covid-19 vaccines for 10 million people.
The Peronist leader sought to calm fears over mass coronavirus vaccinations and the Russian vaccine in particular. Sputnik has been rolled out in Russia but hasn’t undergone local trials in Argentina. It hasn’t yet been adopted by many countries, unlike shots being produced by AstraZeneca Plc and Pfizer Inc.
Fernández, speaking on the day he marked his first year in office, said he would take his dose once the vaccine is approved by Argentina's National Administration of Drugs, Food and Medical Technology (ANMAT). He said he had “no doubts” about its quality.
"We will have enough doses to vaccinate 10 million Argentines," he said, saying a contract with Moscow was signed on Wednesday.
The Frente de Todos leader said that the vaccine would be ready before the end of the year, with the most vulnerable at the head of the queue. A first shipment of 600,000 doses will be used to inoculate 300,000 people – two doses per person – before the end of December, he confirmed.
In January, doses for a further five million people are expected, with the remainder of the inoculations needed for a total of 10 million arriving in February, said the president.
"Being able to have a contract that says when the vaccines will arrive offers great peace of mind," said the president, flanked by Health Minister Ginés González García.
Trials and effectiveness
The Sputnik vaccine's developers say it is 95 percent effective based on interim trial results. However, it's yet to complete its third and final phase of trials involving some 40,000 volunteers. Nevertheless, mass vaccination started in Russia this week, with 150,000 people inoculated so far.
Moscow, which has received orders for 1.2 billion doses for 2021, has applied for Sputnik’s approval in 40 countries, according to Kirill Dmitriev, the head of Russian Direct Investment Fund that backs the vaccine. The inoculation will cost about US$20 for a course of two shots and will be produced in Russia, India, South Korea and several other countries.
Fernández said it wasn’t yet clear where Argentina’s doses will come from. He also confirmed that officials would travel to Russia in the coming days to finalise details.
Argentina has been hit particularly badly by the coronavirus pandemic, surpassing 40,000 deaths from the disease this week, and accumulating more than 1.5 million cases since March. Globally, the country ranks ninth in Covid-19 deaths per capita, the second-worst outcome in Latin America after Peru.
The agreement with Russia is the third signed by the government to acquire Covid-19 vaccines.