A year ago, when Russia claimed to become the first country in the world to approve coronavirus vaccine, it began to conquer for international market by contracting with the countries of Latin America, Asia, Europe, while neglecting the results of the Phase III trial and granting permission by regulative bodies. In January 2021, Russian Direct Investment Foundation (RDIF) claimed Russia is ready to export 100 million doses of Sputnik V vaccine to the European Union. The boastful claims were made just half a year ago, but the vaccine diplomacy of the Kremlin experienced quick fiasco. Russian officials are not passionate much when answering the question of the delays of the vaccine supplies and the reason of Russia’s violation of the terms of contracts.
Last week Argentina expressed its outrage at the situation. Russia is still supposed to deliver 18,5 million doses of Sputnik V vaccine, the two thirds of its quantity are doses reserved for revaccination of those already inoculated with the first shot. Due to the delays, people were not injected in time - three months are required between the first and second injection. According to general statistics, only 12% of Argentinians are fully vaccinated, and 37% of the population received the first shot only.
The initial success of Russian vaccine in Argentina was caused by the adoption of law on the vaccination in last October. The law prohibits the purchase of American vaccines, such as Pfizer and Moderna. But instead, Argentina uses mix of AstraZeneca, Sinopharm and Russian Sputnik V vaccines. The delays and pressure from the opposition party Juntos (Together) made president Alberto Fernandez to change last year’s vaccine law in order to legalize the donation of Moderna and Pfizer jabs from the US. At the end of July Argentina announced an agreement with Pfizer for 20 million doses by the year-end.
Last week, Guatemala had to cancel the purchase of 8 million dosed of Russian vaccine. In April, the government of Guatemala reserved Sputnik V doses from Russia, paying an advance of over $79 million for 8 million jabs. However, by the end of June, local media reported that only 150,000 doses were supplied.
The similar measure had been taken by Brazil - the second Latin America country to terminate contract with Russia on 10 million doses, which have not arrived yet.
Russia also violated the terms of contract with Bolivia: by the end of May the country received no more than 745.000 out of 5.2 million doses. Mexico has got only 4.1 of out 24 million so far.
Sputnik V was the first vaccine approved for use in Iran. Meanwhile, many Iranians, including Dr. Minoo Mohraz, a member of the National Task Force Committee for Fighting Coronavirus and professor at the Tehran University of Medical Sciences, said they did not trust Russian vaccine and would refuse to be injected with it. Dr Minoo Mohraz mentioned that buying Sputnik V was “Iranian people’s bad luck.” And the figures say that Dr. Mohraz was right! In February, it was announced that Iran would receive 5 million doses of Russian vaccine, however, by the end of June only 920.000 were supplied. As in Argentina, in Iran Russian supplier had an advantage over other developers: the Supreme Leader Ali Khamenei prohibited BioNTech-Pfizer and Oxford-AstraZeneca vaccines â a decision which resulted from tensions between Iran and the US.
In June, Bangladesh sent a proposal to the Russian government to purchase at least 10 million Sputnik V doses. The possibility of manufacturing the vaccine in Bangladesh was also considered. However, last Sunday Foreign Minister Dr. A.K. Abdul Momen in his comment for Dhaka Tribune stated: “The government has decided, in principle, to procure vaccines from Russia. But the process is slightly delayed due to Covid resurgence in Russia.” Bangladesh is still waiting for an answer regarding the purchase of 10 million doses from Russia.
In February, the African Union’s Vaccine Acquisition Task Team said Russia had offered it unthinkable 300 million doses of the vaccine along with a financing package. In the hope of obtaining them, about 11 sub-Saharan African countries had approved the use of Sputnik V by the beginning of summer. As a result, Ghana and Angola, accounting for their 3.4 and 12 million jabs, as of the beginning of July got only 20.000 and 40.000 respectively.
RDIF – an organization responsible for the promotion of Sputnik V - claims that India will become the main production hub of Russian vaccine, and, if so, the partnership will fill the supply gaps. The joint production is being implemented by the world biggest vaccine producer Serum Institute of India and such Indian companies as Gland Pharma, Panacea Biotec, Hetero Biopharma, Stelis Biopharma, Morepen Laboratories and Virchow Biotech. However, the process has been postponed to September despite the “launch” was expected to take place in July. Besides, in August, the daily infectious rate in India has reached about 40.000 people, and in Russia it surpassed 20.000 cases per day, which is typical for the peak of the pandemic.
While offering thousands of millions doses of Sputnik V worldwide, Russia failed to take into account its own production capacity, and in the light of adverse dynamics it would be a self-deception to expect that Moscow will arrange the supplies and fix the production with partners.