Sputnik V: The Russian vaccine is now used in over 40 countries

Marcos Brindicci / Getty Images

The Russian vaccine Sputnik V is on the rise in Latin America, Eastern Europe, Asia and Africa. More than 40 countries have signed contracts with the manufacturers of the vaccine. Because many of these states have little access to the vaccines in demand from Western companies that drive the vaccination campaigns in the USA and Europe.

The Russian Direct Investment Fund (RDIF) – the body responsible for marketing the vaccine – announced in a press release on Wednesday which nations would be delivered.

These include:

  • In Europe: Russia, Belarus, Serbia, Slovakia, Hungary, Armenia, Montenegro, San Marino, Moldova.
  • In Asia: Turkmenistan, Pakistan, Kazakhstan, Uzbekistan, Syria, Kyrgyzstan, Myanmar, Syria, Mongolia, Sri Lanka.
  • In South America: Argentina, Bolivia, Venezuela, Paraguay, Mexico, Nicaragua, Guyana, St. Vincent and the Grenadines, Honduras, Guatemala.
  • In Africa: Algeria, Angola, Republic of the Congo, Djibouti, Republic of Guinea, Tunisia
  • In the near East: United Arab Emirates, Iran, Bahrain, Lebanon, Gabon, Egypt, Ghana.

The vaccine has also been approved by the Palestinian Authority and a republic in Bosnia and Herzegovina, the Republic of Srpska, the press release said.

Russia is not particularly interested in selling its vaccine to the US or Europe

Kirill Dmitriev, director of the RDIF, said he had little interest in selling the vaccine to the US and also little interest in sending it to Europe. Because there is also broad demand outside of the USA and Western Europe, as many nations find it difficult to get the vaccines from AstraZeneca, Moderna, Pfizer and Johnson & Johnson.

Large industrialized nations like the US, Canada and the UK have ordered enough vaccine to vaccinate their populations multiple times. That is why some development organizations accuse them of hoarding vaccines. They also get their doses earlier. The World Health Organization’s COVAX program, which aims to give the poorest countries access to vaccines, is making slow progress. The first vaccines reached Africa on March 1st.

Lawrence Gostin, a professor of medicine at Georgetown University and director of the WHO Collaborating Center on National and Global Health Law, told that the distribution of the doses was clearly unfair. “What should be a politically neutral, scientific, life-saving medical resource is divided around the world according to political and geostrategic spheres of influence,” he said. In doing so, poorer countries are left out.

“Russia sells to desperate people”

The RDIF makes no secret of its intentions. “Our priority is the Middle East, Latin America, Asia, Africa, those countries that are very eager to receive Sputnik,” Dmitriev said in an interview with the English-language newspaper Arab News on January 18th.

“Russia sells to desperate people,” says Gostin again. “Governments realize that people are dying that [COVID-19] completely destroyed their economies and that they lose public confidence. If there was a more informative and competitive market, countries could choose from a range of equally effective or more effective vaccines, ”said Gostin. “You probably wouldn’t take the Russian one.”

Sputnik V was found to be highly effective in clinical studies with an effectiveness of 91.6 percent. At this point, however, the vaccination was already fraught with suspicion, as the Russian government decided to use the vaccination on its own population months before the studies were completed.

In many countries, the Russian vaccine represents hope

“Once a country has blatantly violated all of the scientific and ethical rules governing the use of a vaccine, it is difficult to regain confidence, at least among people who have a choice,” said Gostin. “The choice is yours, either nothing to do or to give some hope to their country. And the Russian vaccine stands for hope. “

Some of the countries have already received their cans. Argentina currently leads the way in the number of Sputnik-V vaccinations given in Latin America. The Russian vaccine is on the rise there. Argentina already administered over 270,000 first doses and 45,000 second doses in January, according to Reuters news agency. The country has ordered a total of 20 million doses of the vaccine.

Mexico, Venezuela, Bolivia and Paraguay have also received vaccines and are awaiting more.

A local resident plays sports after receiving the Sputnik V vaccine in Mexico City, Mexico on Wednesday.

A local resident plays sports after receiving the Sputnik V vaccine in Mexico City, Mexico on Wednesday.

Edgard Garrido / Reuters

Many Eastern European countries in particular rely on Sputnik V.

The vaccine is also on the rise in Europe, especially among the Eastern European countries that are historically more closely linked to Russia. Serbia’s prime minister received a dose of the Sputnik-V vaccine last December, the US news broadcaster BBC reported.

The country has vaccinated about 1.5 million people with a combination of Pfizer / BioNtech, China’s Sinovac vaccine, and Sputnik V. Regarding the vaccinations, however, it is unclear how many of them were Sputnik vaccinations. “If [Impfstoffe] come from China, the USA or the EU – we don’t care as long as they are safe and we get them as soon as possible, ”said Serbia’s Prime Minister Ana Brnabic in an interview with the BBC.

San Marino and Montenegro also received a few thousand cans of Sputnik V each. Some European countries have expressed an interest in the vaccine but appear to be awaiting approval from the European Medicines Agency (EMA). Countries could act without EMA approval, but they usually don’t.

Many EU Member States are frustrated and no longer rely on the European Medicines Agency

The EMA announced on Thursday that it would begin an ongoing review of the Sputnik V vaccine. Frustrated by the delays, some EU member states have decided not to wait for the EMA. Hungary was the first member state to split off from the bloc.

“Every day we would spend waiting for Brussels, we would lose a hundred Hungarian lives,” Mr Orban told Hungarian radio, the Irish Times reported. “I trust someone [Impfstoff-]Analysis in Brussels no more than a Hungarian one. “

According to the European Center for Disease Prevention and Control, Hungary has administered 19,582 doses to date. Slovakia followed suit. She bought two million doses of Sputnik V and received 200,000 doses of the vaccine on Wednesday.

The coronavirus doesn’t care about geopolitics

“It is right to buy the Russian vaccine, COVID-19 does not matter to geopolitics,” Slovak Prime Minister Igor Matovic told the Moscow Times on Monday. The former Soviet states of Turkmenistan and Kazakhstan have also started administering Sputnik V.

Pavel Aleksandrov / TASS via Getty Images

It appears that Russia is keen to capitalize on the advertising opportunities offered by its vaccine distribution. And often with a certain theatricality: the scenario is practically the same in almost all countries. Journalists are invited onto airport runways to watch the unloading of vaccine boxes marked with the Sputnik V and RDIF logo or draped with a Russian flag.

This is what it looked like in Paraguay:

Here the vaccine was delivered to Slovakia:

Sputnik V is significantly more expensive than many of the mRNA vaccines

Africa should have been a difficult sales partner for the Russian vaccine because the continent has a close relationship with the Chinese government. China is currently investing heavily in developing African infrastructure.

Nevertheless, the African Union has already secured three million vaccine doses from Russia, which are due to arrive in May. However, the whole thing has its price. The RDIF had announced that the vaccine would be two to three times cheaper than European mRNA vaccines. However, once the RDIF started closing deals, the price was $ 10 a dose, three times the price of vaccinations from AstraZeneca ($ 3) or Pfizer (about $ 7), reported the Financial Times last week.

Algeria began vaccinating with Sputnik V on January 30 and Egypt approved the vaccine on February 24 with an emergency approval. In the Middle East, Iran started vaccinating with Sputnik V on February 9th. The first dose was given to the son of the Iranian Minister of Health, Parsa Namaki, to reduce public suspicion of the vaccine, according to the news site “Al Jazeera”.

Russia is trying to improve its position in the world with the vaccine

The United Arab Emirates (UAE) also passed emergency approval for the vaccine on January 21, before the results of the phase 3 study were published. And the Palestinian Authority also deployed some doses of the vaccine after Russia gave the country 1,000 doses of Sputnik V and the UAE gave another 20,000 doses of Sputnik V.

Health care workers next to boxes of Sputnik-V vaccine doses from the UAE as a truckload arrives in the Gaza Strip on February 21.

Health care workers next to boxes of Sputnik-V vaccine doses from the UAE as a truckload arrives in the Gaza Strip on February 21.

SAID KHATIB / AFP via Getty Images

For health expert Gostin, the geopolitical advantage is not the only drive for Russia’s strategy. “[Russland] is really trying to improve its technological position in the world, ”said Gostin. “This is a way of showing that Russia’s technological capabilities are on a par with those of the West.”

“It is no coincidence that it (the vaccine) was called Sputnik, as it is very reminiscent of the race to the moon between Russia and the United States. The truth is that Russia is making policy with vaccines, trying to gain a geostrategic advantage and improve its image abroad. Then there is Europe, the US, UK and Canada hoarding vaccines and robbing lower income countries, ”says Gostin.

“I don’t know how the leaders of Europe and the US can look in the mirror and feel ethically superior in any way.”

This text has been translated from English. The original can be found here.


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