Argentina Chides Russia as Vaccine Delays Hurt Government

The Argentine government complained to Russia over delays in delivering its Sputnik V vaccine, saying the lack of supplies has left the South American country in a “very critical situation,” putting the government at risk.

In an email dated July 7, Cecilia Nicolini, an adviser to President Alberto Fernandez, wrote that Russia hasn’t made good on commitments to deliver the second dose of its Sputnik vaccine. The email, first reported by newspaper La Nacion on Thursday, warns Russian authorities that the shortages “are leaving us with very little options to continue fighting for you and this project!”

Argentina Chides Russia as Vaccine Delays Hurt Government

“We are facing legal prosecution due to these delays as public officials, putting at risk our government,” Nicolini wrote to Anatoly Braverman, first deputy CEO at the state-run Russia Direct Investment Fund, referring to a conversation between Argentine and Russian officials. “We are again in a very critical situation.”

Fernandez’s press office didn’t immediately respond to multiple requests for comment. In a radio interview Thursday morning, Nicolini confirmed the authenticity of the email, saying both countries have regular communication. RDIF didn’t reply to requests for comment.

Kremlin spokesman Dmitry Peskov on Friday said “delays” in Sputnik supplies for Argentina were a result of the need to ramp up domestic vaccination as cases surged. “We’ve always said that the main priority is to ensure that Russians can get inoculated,” he said on a conference call with reporters. He said the RDIF would resolve any issues with supplies to foreign customers.

The Argentine government has been one of the earliest and most enthusiastic users of Russia’s Sputnik and started inoculating its citizens against Covid-19 with the Sputnik V vaccine outside of trials in late December. As of Wednesday, the country received almost 12 million doses of the vaccine, including 9.4 million of the first shot and 2.5 million of the second.

But with midterm elections in November, Argentines increasingly have a negative view of Fernandez’s handling of the pandemic as the nation recently surpassed 100,000 Covid-related deaths. About 59% of Argentines disapprove of Fernandez’s response to the pandemic, up from a low of 12% a year ago, according to a poll by Buenos Aires-based consulting firm Poliarquia in late May.

Facing a lack of vaccines, Fernandez’s government has intentionally prioritized getting citizens just a first dose. Only 12.7% of Argentines are fully vaccinated, behind the pace of Brazil, Mexico and Colombia, according to Bloomberg’s Vaccine Tracker. Neighboring Chile and Uruguay have about 60% of their respective populations with both shots.

Russia’s struggle to produce the second dose has left a gap in the number of Argentines able to complete the inoculation by the recommended period of three months. Despite clinching orders for hundreds of millions of doses of Sputnik, a slow start to production means only a fraction has been delivered, leaving some countries facing delays in their vaccination programs.

In the email, Nicolini, who has led vaccine negotiations for the country alongside Health Minister Carla Vizzotti, wrote that Argentina is waiting for an additional 18.7 million Sputnik doses in total. She also said that Fernandez has recently issued a decree that enables the government to sign contracts with U.S. vaccine producers and receive donations from that country.

©2021 Bloomberg L.P.

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