Russian President Vladimir Putin’s comments on Thursday about waiting to take the Sputnik V coronavirus vaccine due to his age, reverberated in Argentina where the government plans to use the shot to initially immunize priority groups including the elderly.
Argentine President Alberto Fernandez, 61, said last week that the first supplies of the Russian vaccine should arrive before year-end and that he’d be first in line to take it to assuage any concerns. Argentina plans to give the shot to 10 million people in the first few months of 2021, with the possibility of an additional 5 million doses in March.
Sputnik V is finalizing trial data on 110 senior volunteers age 60 and above and results are expected by the end of the month, according to the Russian Direct Investment Fund. So far, the authorities haven’t encouraged the elderly to take the shot but haven’t prohibited it either.
”No Sputnik V safety issues were determined with the elderly volunteers,” the RDIF said in a statement. “The vaccine’s developer is analyzing the clinical data and is preparing a report that will be used by the Health Ministry to decide on the use of the vaccine against COVID-19 for older population groups.”
The comments from Putin were featured prominently on the home pages of the major local media websites in Argentina on Thursday.
A team led by Health Secretary Carla Vizzotti is currently in Moscow as part of a review that will still require approval from the local regulator ANMAT. Vizzotti told a local radio station that Sputnik’s efficiency is being monitored and that Russia is finalizing data from the trials.
Russia has already started a mass vaccination program domestically for people 18-60 years old. Authorities have put the effectiveness of the shot at 91.4%.
Following on Putin's unexpected comments, Argentina will await the final results before importing the vaccines by plane to Buenos Aires, according to government sources. President Fernandez won’t take the shot unless it has proven to be effective for his age range, the person said, asking not to be named discussing private matters.
“It’s really uncomfortable for the Argentine government,” Jimena Blanco, director of Latin America research at consulting firm Verisk Maplecroft in Buenos Aires, said in a phone interview. “This could be a major disappointment for the coalition’s own voters, as the vaccine was one of the achievements Fernandez could tout.”
Fernandez didn’t mention the pending Sputnik trials when he announced the agreement with Russia during a Dec. 10 press conference, when he also anticipated that in a few months over 10 million Argentines would be inoculated.