Argentina’s president Alberto Fernandez is getting international flak for buying Sputnik V COVID-19 vaccine from Russia, among other companies and countries.
In his opinion, his country’s put in a bad spot, since now it needs to consider whether it should buy more of the Russian vaccine, and this amounted to “trade war.”
Competitors are eager to “discredit each other,” Fernandez told TV Publica in an interview broadcasted on Monday, adding that the coronavirus vaccine market is worth “tens of billions of dollars.”
“A trade war has been unleashed and, as everyone hopes for a vaccine, there is a geopolitical debate about who imposes it.”
“They call it a Russian vaccine and not the Gamaleya vaccine,” Fernandez said, referring to the drug’s developer, the Moscow-based Gamaleya Research Institute.
He defended his country’s decision, simply because Argentina has a massive population, and it just needs vaccines to protect its people and save lives.
“There are political sectors that inform or misinform, and use this vaccine as part of their game,” he added, noting how some players are interested in “scaring” the public away from getting a shot and are “sowing doubts.”
“I would not dare to say that one is better than the other. How do you compare? I cared a lot about negotiating with everyone: we are buying vaccines of Covax, of AstraZeneca, we have bought a vaccine from Russia, we continue negotiations with China and we continue the talks with Pfizer, because the truth is that we need vaccines.
We are waiting for others when we start negotiations, and suddenly – don’t ask me how – we’re apparently sinners for having brought 300,000 doses of vaccine to Argentina, when some other [nations] are asking for any vaccine for their people.”
Argentina began a mass vaccination campaign using Sputnik V on December 29th.
Anonymous sources leaked documents that purportedly showed that 12 volunteers have had “adverse” side-effects during the trial, among them three volunteers over the age of 60 had suffered from abscesses, abdominal pains, and blood clot.
Eduardo Lopez, an infectious disease expert at the Ricardo Gutierrez Children’s Hospital in Buenos Aires, told La Nacion newspaper that such severe symptoms were “almost certainly” not related to the vaccine.
Just days earlier, on Christmas Eve, December 24th, Argentina’s President Alberto Fernandez has expressed his gratitude to Russia after a plane from Moscow delivered the first batch of the Sputnik V vaccine against the coronavirus to Buenos Aires.
Argentina ya tiene vacuna contra el Covid-19. Nuestra sincera gratitud con @sputnikvaccine y con el presidente Vladimir Putin por el compromiso que han demostrado con nuestro país.
Se abre un camino de esperanza, pero la pandemia aun no ha terminado. Debemos seguir cuidándonos. pic.twitter.com/M76AohCU99
— Alberto Fernández (@alferdez) December 24, 2020
“Now begins the largest vaccination campaign in our history,” Fernandez, who earlier promised to become the first to get the jab in the country, wrote in a separate message.
According to a deal signed earlier in December, Argentina will be getting 10 million doses of the Russian vaccine overall. Argentina became the first nation in Latin America to grant approval to Sputnik V.
It was done in line with an emergency procedure without local testing.
It is notable what the Argentinian president said, that this is a “trade war”.
According to estimates, The US drugmaker Pfizer and the German biotech firm BioNTech stand to bring in nearly $13bn in global sales from their coronavirus vaccine in 2021.
Pfizer’s half would be more than the US pharmaceutical group’s bestselling product, a pneumonia vaccine that generated $5.8bn in 2019.
Pfizer has agreed to supply 100m doses to the US at a price of $39 for a two-shot course, or $19.50 per dose, with the option to supply another 500m doses under new terms. The EU has ordered 200m doses while the UK has ordered 40m.
The global poverty charity Oxfam said the vaccine would be “zero per cent effective to the people who can’t access or afford it”, and urged the companies to share their vaccine with other developers.
The Mainz-based BioNTech received €375m from the German government and a €100m loan from the European Investment Bank. BioNTech is tiny compared to Pfizer, with revenues of €109m last year compared with Pfizer’s $52bn.
The loss-making US biotech firm Moderna, which has received nearly $1bn in research funding from the US government, has priced its vaccine at $32 to $37 a shot.
According to the website of the Sputnik V, the cost of one dose of the “Russian vaccine” would be less than $10 per dose.
Similarly, to BioNtech and Pfizer’s vaccine, it is a two-dose vaccine, meaning it would be worth less than $20 for the entire inoculation.
That is much cheaper.
Sputnik V will be nearly two or more times cheaper than foreign vaccines based on mRNA technology with similar efficacy rates.
For Russian citizens, vaccination with Sputnik V will be free of charge.
So, yes, it is a “trade war” and massive profits are involved, and Pfizer/BioNtech’s vaccine, as well as Moderna’s vaccines aren’t called the “American Vaccine” or the “German Vaccine”, while the “Russian vaccine” is used as a derogatory term, and those who purchase it, despite being much cheaper and likely just as effective are “sinners,” they could even potentially be subject to sanctions.
Since the COVID-19 vaccine could be used as a lever to pressure smaller countries in purchasing the US/Germany-made ones, instead of the Russian-made one, similarly to how many countries are bullied into purchasing US-made weapons of war, instead of Russian-made ones, through various mechanisms and namely sanctions regimes.