Argentina hopes to receive one million doses of China’s Sinopharm vaccine against Covid-19 "in the next few days," new Health Minister Carla Vizzotti said Monday.
Vizzotti, who assumed the post on Sunday after her predecessor Ginés González García resigned amid scandal, made the announcement just hours after it emerged that the Sinopharm vaccine had been authorised "on an emergency basis" for use in Argentina.
The decision, taken Sunday and publicised the following day, was taken following a recommendation from ANMAT, Argentina's drug regulator, officials said.
"Work is being done to have one million doses of the Chinese vaccine delivered in the next few days," the minister told the El Destape radio station in an interview.
Vizzotti also confirmed that presidential adviser Cecilia Nicolini had flown to Moscow and was “working to have an overview of the delivery dates” for Russia’s Sputnik V vaccine.
She also trailed that the government expected a first shipment of the AstraZeneca-Oxford University shot “in the first days of March.”
The new minister, who has a daunting in-tray, sounded an optimistic note as she discussed the roll-out of Argentina’s mass vaccination programme.
"As vaccines enter, the target population [for vaccination], which is 15 million people, could be vaccinated in a relatively short time," she said.
Argentina, with 44 million inhabitants, has recorded more than two million infections of Covid-19 to date, with more than 51,000 deaths. So far, the country has received 1.22 million doses of Sputnik V and 580,000 of Covishield, produced by India’s Serum Institute.
Vizzotti also commented on reports that the Health Ministry – under González García’s leadership – had put aside a stock of 3,000 vaccine doses at the Hospital Posadas in Buenos Aires Province, before distributing the rest equitably to all 23 of Argentina’s provinces and the Federal Capital, with each district running their own mini-vaccination plan.
“In no way were those 3,000 vaccines to cover discretionary use by the ministry," she insisted.
"The idea that there is a VIP vaccination [plan] in the Health Ministry is false. What happened was a specific situation – 10 people went to Health Ministry to be vaccinated and the president took the measures," said the minister, referring to her predecessor’s resignation.