Russia flies more Sputnik V coronavirus vaccine to Argentina, first doses reach Bolivia

Airport workers handle a box with a batch of Sputnik V vaccines at the El Alto International Airport in La Paz, on Jan 28, 2021. PHOTO: AFP

BUENOS AIRES (REUTERS) - Russia delivered the first batch of its Sputnik V coronavirus vaccine to Bolivia on Thursday (Jan 28) along with a larger shipment for neighbouring Argentina, as Moscow looks to play a key role in the region's vaccine rollout despite delivery delays.

A plane carrying 240,000 doses of the vaccine arrived in Argentina, of which 20,000 doses went on to Bolivia, where President Luis Arce was waiting to greet the delivery in La Paz.

Bolivia will be the second Latin American country to roll out the Russian vaccine.

"Starting tomorrow, the distribution begins. There are 20,000 vaccines and two doses for each person," presidential spokesman Jorge Richter told reporters.

"They will be for the sectors that are most exposed and at the front line of contagion."

Argentina had already taken delivery of two consignments, each with 300,000 shots, although it has received far less of the Russian vaccine than it had originally hoped.

The country's state airline, Aerolineas Argentinas, which flew the shipment, said in a tweet after the doses arrived that "unloading has begun. The doses will be stored in the Airbus warehouse, packed in Thermobox (refrigerated boxes)."

A spokesman for the airline told Reuters earlier that the latest consignment of 220,000 doses for Argentina was equally split between first and second shots of the two-stage vaccine.

The Argentine deliveries fall short of the 5 million doses health authorities had said they expected to receive in January from Russia.

From Buenos Aires, Bolivia's BOA national airline picked up its share of the shipment to fly to La Paz.

The Russian Direct Investment Fund (RDIF), which markets Sputnik V, and the Gamaleya Research Institute, which developed it, said on Wednesday that supplies to Latin America might be delayed by up to three weeks as production capacity was ramped up.

RDIF declined to comment on the latest shipment.

Argentina had not received notice of the size of the latest shipment of 220,000 doses before it was sent, Health Ministry official Carla Vizzotti told state news agency Telam.

"We are super careful until we have confirmation, due to the particular dynamic of the world supply of vaccines," she said, adding she hoped more would arrive "during the next few days and weeks."

Argentina has administered 272,323 people with the first dose of the Sputnik V vaccine and 45,710 people with the second dose, ministry figures show. The country has also approved the vaccine manufactured by AstraZeneca.

There have been 1.9 million confirmed Covid-19 cases and about 47,500 deaths in Argentina.

Bolivia's Arce wrote on Twitter that the 20,000 doses his country was receiving was more than originally agreed for delivery in January. He said the vaccines would be administered to frontline health workers.

Bolivia has had over 200,000 Covid-19 cases and more than 10,000 deaths.

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