Government officials said Thursday that the deployment of any coronavirus vaccine in Argentina will not be mandatory, as they sought to calm concerns over treatments used to tackle Covid-19.
President Alberto Fernández confirmed Monday that Argentina has accepted a proposal from Russia to buy an initial 10 million doses of its experimental Sputnik V Covid-19 vaccine, with delivery expected before the end of the year.
The deal, which depends on the Sputnik V receiving approval from the relevant authorities, prompted criticism from some local politicians and health experts, who highlighted Western concerns that the Russian vaccine was being rushed onto the market.
A number of vaccines are under development worldwide. Argentina has also signed a deal with Mexico to co-produce hundreds of millions of doses of a vaccine developed by the AstaZeneca pharmaceutical firm and researchers at Oxford University for Latin America, should that effort win approval from the relevant authorities.
In an interview with the TN news channel on Thursday, Health Access Secretary Carla Vizzotti said that citizens would not be forced to take any vaccine purchased by Argentina’s government.
"No vaccine against Covid will be mandatory. Let’s be calm and analyse the situation with the greatest amount of serenity possible,” said Vizzotti, who travelled to Russia last month to learn more about Sputnik V at the request of President Alberto Fernández.
The official said that Argentina’s National Administration of Drugs, Foods and Medical Devices (ANMAT) was already looking at documentation related to the vaccine for the purposes of “analysis” and “due process.”
Vizzotti also revealed that the national government would launch a campaign to build confidence over the vaccine and said the effectiveness of a vaccine was more important than its source.
“in the decision to evaluate vaccines there is no geopolitics, but rather the evaluation of safety and efficacy," she concluded.
Health Minister Ginés González García echoed those sentiments, also confirming that the vaccine would not be mandatory for all citizens.
He stressed, however, that it was important to "convince" the population of the merits of a vaccine, saying the aim was to ensure its deployment among Argentines was "massive."
"There is not going to be a move to force them to get vaccinated, but we are going to urge and convince [citizens]," he said.
The minister said that the vaccine will be available in December or early 2021, though he stressed that the government would look to source other alternatives too.
“I think there will be several vaccines, not only the Russian one, which by the end of the year will be very close or already in play,” he said.
He said Argentina wanted to ensure it had access to all the available options, rather than putting all its eggs in one basket.
"With the manufacturers we have made sure to have a privileged position, or at least not to be left behind. I was very afraid that [nations in] the northern hemisphere, which have much more economic and political power, would put us off,” he confessed.
“I'm sure we will have the vaccine available at the same time as in other parts of the world,” said González García.