Argentina starts nationwide COVID-19 vaccinations

On December 24, the South American nation received the first 300,000 doses out of a total order of over 10 million doses of the Russian Sputnik V vaccine. In the first round it has prioritized the health workers for the administration of the vaccine.

December 29, 2020 by Peoples Dispatch
Flavia Loiacono, a doctor in Posadas, Argentina was one of the first to receive the Sputnik V vaccine. Photo: Telam

Argentina started COVID-19 immunization on Tuesday, December 28 after the first batch of over 300,000 doses of Russian Sputnik V vaccine arrived in the country on December 24. Argentina became the third country after Russia and Belarus to approve “emergency use” of Sputnik V vaccine on Wednesday, December 23.

According to the Russian Direct Investment Fund, (RDIF, Russia’s sovereign wealth fund), the delivery of the first batch of 300,000 doses is a part of its deal with the government of Argentina for the delivery of a total of 10 million doses of the vaccine.

The shipment of these 300,000 doses to Argentina is the largest shipment of vaccine to any country in Latin America so far.

In a press release published on December 23, the National Administration of Medicine, Food and Medical Technology (ANMAT), a body of the MInistry of Health, said, “the information available in the preliminary trials shows safety and efficacy in the range of greater than acceptable, and it also indicates that there have been no serious adverse effects, no lack or less effectiveness in the different age groups for which it is currently indicated.”

According to RDIF, Sputnik V, which was developed by Gamaleya Research Institute in Russia and was the first registered vaccine for COVID-19 in the world is found to be 91.4% effective in its third and final control point analysis. It also claims to be 100% effective in severe cases of COVID-19 infection. Sputnik is one of the most economical vaccines so far with just under USD$10 per dose unlike Pfizer which has a cost of over USD$19 per dose in the US.

According to RDIF, because of the production of lyophilized (dry) form of the vaccine it is possible now to easily store and distribute it. It can be stored at 2-to-8-degree Celsius temperature unlike Pfizer which requires storage at -70 degrees. Sputnik V’s liquid variant can be stored at -20 degrees.

Priority for the most vulnerable  

Argentina is one of the worst COVID-19 affected countries of the Latin America with over 42,800 deaths and over 1.59 million infections in a country with a population of just above 45 million. After recording a peak in the number of cases and deaths in October this year it witnessed a fall in both in November. However, the number of new cases has started rising again in the last two weeks.

Reacting to the surge in the new cases, the government has extended the mandatory social distancing measures in the country until January 31, 2021.

The administration of the vaccine will be undertaken by the local governments with each prioritizing the most vulnerable sections such as health professionals, people above 60 years old and educational professionals over others. In Buenos Aires alone so far 315,000 people have registered themselves to be vaccinated.

In the beginning of December Argentina’s progressive government had passed a one-off tax on the wealthiest in the country to fund the country’s public health including the COVID-19 relief measures. According to the law, those who have assets worth more than 200 million pesos or USD 2.5 million will pay a progressive “millionaire tax” of up to 3.5% for domestic assets and up to 5.25% on the assets abroad. The objective of the new tax is to collect over 300 billion pesos to fund the country’s public health.

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