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Uruguayan President seizes Pfizer vaccines Argentine neglected, press reports

Saturday, April 17th 2021 - 12:07 UTC
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President Lacalle Pou negotiated personally with Pfizer for the supply of vaccines President Lacalle Pou negotiated personally with Pfizer for the supply of vaccines

Uruguay's President Luis Lacalle Pou successfully carried out a personal negotiation with the Pfizer laboratory in Buenos Aires in December as talks between the Argentine government and the manufacturers of the vaccine began to stall, it was reported.

According to press reports, the laboratory's offer was of 13.3 million doses, but for months, the Argentine authorities remained silent. Until it was too late. Lacalle Pou had negotiated personally with the laboratories.

Health Minister at the time in Argentina was Ginés González García, who first postponed any dealings with Pfizer because they were too keen on the Astra-Zeneca vaccine, but when this product began recording setback after setback and González García tried to resume dealings with Pfizer it was too late. Moscow's offer of the Sputnik V became the next best option.

Buenos Aires claims Pfizer was to blame for their foul play. When the Argentine Congress passed the bill which included the possibility of suing the laboratories, Pfizer remained silent until President Alberto Fernández had signed it into law.

Meanwhile, by December 24, Uruguay had signed a confidentiality agreement for the purchase of 2 million doses with one additional million negotiable.

The team led by González García also admitted that the initial tentative figure was 13.3 million, which was reduced to 3 million due to a “bottleneck” in output on Pfizer's side. “For months, AstraZeneca's vaccine seemed more advantageous than Pfizer's. It required fewer refrigeration logistics, a single dose instead of two doses, and it was much cheaper, in addition to offering to develop it in Argentina“, according to press reports quoting unnamed health ministry sources.

”When Lacalle Pou picked up the phone, he stated that the situation in his country was getting complicated and he needed all the help possible,“ explained another source familiar with the negotiations. ”In this context, Pfizer Argentina called the headquarters in the United States saying it was untenable for the entire Southern Cone to run out of vaccines, so they were given the green light. “In less than 24 hours, Lacalle Pou hired a law firm in New York and moved towards signing the letter of intent,” according to the same source.

The González García team also objected to that version. “Pfizer had almost nothing to show in the Southern Cone. And they saw that they could look good -and incidentally put pressure on the Argentine government- by throwing some ‘coins’ at Uruguay,” they graphed. In the weeks that followed, however, another president followed in the footsteps of his Uruguayan counterpart. It was Jair Bolsonaro, who called Pfizer for assistance. He invited to leave behind the previous differences and required 100 million doses.

Speeches aside, Uruguay, which started its acquisition plan with a notable delay, has already managed, in percentage terms, to almost triple Argentina's vaccination rate: 29% versus 11%, according to the Our World in Data site. Thus, the back and forth between the Argentine government and Pfizer would show a remarkable parallel -although more extended in time- than that between the Casa Rosada and another laboratory, Moderna, as revealed by La Nación, two weeks ago.

Also in late 2020, another option was opened for the Casa Rosada. Due to their common Armenian origins, businessman Eduardo Eurnekian knew the president of the Moderna laboratory, Noubar Afeyan. He contacted him and asked for his help. Afeyan agreed to dialogue at the highest level. And Eurnekian relayed the message to two presidents: Fernández and Lacalle Pou. In less than 12 hours, Lacalle Pou had called Afeyan, while Argentina ruminated yet again on the possibility and by the time they called, the earliest delivery date from Moderna was “October.”

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