Russia Blasts U.S. for Pressing Brazil to Reject Its Vaccine

Russia condemned the U.S. for applying diplomatic pressure on Brazil to reject its Sputnik V Covid-19 vaccine, adding that attempts at political meddling in inoculation campaigns were costing lives.

The U.S. Department of Health and Human Services said in its annual report published in January that its Office of Global Affairs sought to persuade Brazil not to allow the Russian vaccine, accusing Moscow of seeking to expand its influence in the Americas to the “detriment of U.S. safety and security.”

The action demonstrates U.S. “hostility toward Russia and disregard for the interests of partners,” Kremlin spokesman Dmitry Peskov told Bloomberg Tuesday. “Of course, this doesn’t contribute to joint efforts to combat the coronavirus” globally, he said.

A U.S. official distanced the Biden administration from the report, which was issued under his predecessor, and said the U.S. is not in a position to discourage Brazil or other countries from accepting a vaccine that has been approved by local regulators. The official, who spoke on condition of anonymity, declined to comment on the Russian shot.

It is unclear what effect the U.S. lobbying effort has had. Last week, Brazil’s Uniao Quimica signed a deal to import 10 million doses of the Russian vaccine starting in April, and it also has the rights to produce Sputnik V domestically, although the inoculation has not yet been approved for use locally.

Still, that’s a fraction of the more than 550 million doses that Brazil has under contract this year from Pfizer Inc. and Johnson & Johnson as it battles what is currently the world’s worst Covid-19 outbreak, driven by a deadly new strain of the virus. It has had 280,000 deaths from the pandemic so far, the second-most globally after the U.S.

The U.S. has said it won’t send vaccines abroad until Americans have been vaccinated, so if Brazilians “can find a vaccine in Russia, why force them to give up this opportunity?” Peskov said.

Attempts to undermine vaccines “are unethical and are costing lives,” the Russian Direct Investment Fund, which helped develop Sputnik V and is responsible for marketing it internationally, said on the inoculation’s Twitter account. RDIF chief Kirill Dmitriev said last week that Brazil will be one of the key overseas production centers for the vaccine.

Vaccine ‘Pressure’

Russia says about 50 countries have approved its vaccine, and several million doses have already been delivered to Latin America, led by Argentina and Mexico.

Russia is also pushing ahead with a drive to manufacture Sputnik in four countries in the European Union, which is currently examining a request to approve its use.

“We are categorically against the politicization of the situation with vaccines,” Peskov told reporters on a conference call. “In many countries, the scale of pressure is quite unprecedented.”

While Jen Psaki, the White House press secretary, told reporters this month that the U.S. was “concerned about the use or the attempted use of vaccines as a means of diplomacy by Russia and China,” Washington has faced accusations that it is hoarding supplies.

The White House hasn’t said whether any U.S.-produced vaccines have been exported, but Moderna Inc. says its U.S. production is entirely for domestic use. Pfizer and J&J have declined to say whether they’ve exported any U.S.-produced doses or plan to.

©2021 Bloomberg L.P.

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