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The Geopolitical Game around Sputnik V in Latin America

On August 11, the Russian President Vladimir Putin announced that Russia had registered the world’s first vaccine against the COVID-19 virus. This statement immediately sparked a heated discussion among the world community. Some countries suggested that the use of the Russian vaccine could not be safe, while others immediately began looking for the possibility of obtaining the medicine. What are the prospects for “Sputnik V” in the Latin America region? How did the Latin American countries react to the long-awaited vaccine from Russia?

In early August, Latin America became the region with the highest number of deaths among those infected with the coronavirus. At this time, in Latin American countries, more than 206 thousand deaths have already been recorded among patients with COVID-19. Turning to the metrics, Latin America has overtaken Europe in this anti-ranking. Today, in the short term, while the region is still at the epicenter of a pandemic, widespread discussions about how economic instruments might function, everyday life living with the virus, become fundamental.

Amid the pandemic, a new “Chinese trend” is being observed in a number of Latin American countries. Several factors point to China’s growing leading role in Latin America and the Caribbean amid the spread of the coronavirus epidemic. It is worth noting that the PRC in this situation has provided assistance to the countries of Latin America by delivering large consignments of humanitarian aid for medical purposes of primary necessity. Secondly, the recent statements of regional leaders can serve as a sign of such a trend: the governments of Latin American states are grateful to Beijing for its support, which, in particular, was recently announced by the Argentine President Alberto Fernández (Spanish – Alberto Ángel Fernández) and the Mexican Foreign Minister Marcelo Ebrad (Spanish – Marcelo Luis Ebrard Casaubón). Among the measures taken by the Chinese side, there is also the provision of loans for the purchase of a Chinese vaccine, which has just passed state certification in the PRC. According to several regional analysts, China’s positive image in Latin America, according to the latest polls, has grown by 7% since 2014. First of all, this applies to the largest countries in the region – Brazil, Argentina, Mexico.

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In the context of the current sanitary crisis in the world, one should not underestimate the strengthening of the “Russian trend” in the foreign policy of a number of Latin American countries. The announcement by the Russian leader on August 11 that Russia is launching production of the world’s first coronavirus vaccine has caused various reactions. The Ministry of Health of the Russian Federation confirms that the “Sputnik V” vaccine is completely safe and will make it possible to develop immunity against the COVID-19 virus for up to 2 years. Some countries questioned the sufficient level of clinical trials of the long-awaited drug, while others immediately entered into negotiations with the Russian side.

The day after Vladimir Putin’s announcement, August 12, the Russian Direct Investment Fund (RDIF) and the Brazilian state of Parana agreed to distribute the Russian vaccine against coronavirus in Brazil and other Latin American countries. It is reported that in the near future the RDIF and the Gamalei Research Center of Epidemiology and Microbiology are ready to provide the Technological Institute of the State of Paraná (port – Instituto de Tecnologia do Paraná, Tecpar) with all the necessary results of clinical studies of the vaccine and technological protocols for its production. The goal of the signed strategic cooperation agreement between the RDIF and pharmaceutical companies in the state of Parana will be the large-scale production of the “Sputnik V” vaccine and its distribution in Brazil and other countries of the Latin America region.

At a press conference on August 17, the Mexican President Andrés Obrador (Spanish – Andrés Manuel López Obrador) announced that he was ready to become the first in the country to test the Russian vaccine against coronavirus. According to the Mexican head of state, the authorities of the Latin American country intend to establish contact with the Russian leadership on the drug issue if they see confirmation of its effectiveness. At the same time, Obrador stressed that the Mexican government must guarantee not only the effectiveness of the vaccine, but also its availability for the entire population.

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The Argentine leader Alberto Fernandez on August 12 sent a letter of congratulations to Vladimir Putin in connection with the registration of a vaccine against the COVID-19 virus in Russia. According to Fernandez, we all have yet to defeat this pandemic, but good news came from Russia in August, which allows us to fight the difficult current situation, representing a bright future.

However, despite the statements of the Mexican and Argentine leaders, it became known on August 12 that both Latin American countries will produce the Oxford coronavirus vaccine. According to official reports from the governments of the two states, a vaccine against the new type of coronavirus, developed by scientists at the British University of Oxford and the Anglo-Swedish company “AstraZeneca”, will be produced in Argentina and Mexico to supply the Latin American region. The representatives of “AstraZeneca” believe that clinical trials of the drug will be successfully completed by the fall. The company has already secured the necessary capacity to produce 2 billion doses of COVID-19 vaccine. In addition, “AstraZeneca” has already entered into a number of supply agreements with the USA, UK, Italy, Germany, France, the Netherlands and Japan.

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Today, a real geopolitical game is unfolding around vaccination, which a number of scientists have already characterized as a new arms race. Despite the fact that Russia was able to win the first round of this confrontation in the fight against the coronavirus pandemic by registering the first vaccine against COVID-19, there are currently at least five laboratories: one in the UK, one in the United States, two in China and one in Germany, not to mention hundreds of projects around the world.

Actually, science and politics are tightly intertwined in the global pursuit of a vaccine, and the announcement of the Russian leader about the “Sputnik V” vaccine did not cause the proper awe and amazement comparable to the launch of the first artificial Earth satellite in 1957. The closer the world gets to the first effective vaccines, the less opportunity there is to create an equitable and fair distribution system. In the current environment, the first stage is seen as the establishment of a coalition of political leaders of countries that account for at least 50% of the world’s vaccine production capacity. The first step is to understand how to get out of the cocoon and work together. Only by joining efforts can countries come to a multilateral consensus, which in the current conditions seems to be a difficult task.

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