Russia is becoming a major supplier of COVID-19 vaccines for Latin America. This is seen as a sign of Russia’s growing strategic and economic influence over countries much closer geographically to the United States.
Vaccine diplomacy is in action thanks to Sputnik V. Nine countries in Latin America have authorised the use of the Russian made COVID-19 vaccine, making deals to acquire more than 60 million shots.
Russia’s Sputnik V was the first vaccine against COVID-19 to be registered:
Analysts say the pandemic has given Russia a unique opportunity for influence in the Americas.
Moisés Chocrón, Analyst at International Relations, says this will allow Russia to influence political decisions within the countries.
“The influence that Russia can exert on where the vaccine is distributed and how much is distributed to each country; that is what will allow Russia to influence political decision making within each of these countries.”
Long-time Russia ally Venezuela has already received 200 000 doses of Sputnik V, part of a promised total of 10 million.
President Nicolas Maduro went on national television as he received his first dose.
He said he believes Sputnik V is the most advanced vaccine.
“I believe to date it is the most advanced vaccine, the best in the world; the Sputnik V vaccine. I have no doubts.”
Sputnik V initially met with some controversy, rolled out before final trial data was released. But scientists now say its benefit has been demonstrated.
It also offers a practical and economical solution for hard hit Latin American economies. At around $10 per dose, Sputnik V costs about half as much as some competing vaccines and it can be stored in a conventional refrigerator.
As the vaccination campaign continues in the Americas, Russia has been able to find common ground even in countries where ideology has kept them apart in the past.
Chocrón says Russia has been able to make headway in countries such as Colombia.
“Today it is not a matter of political affinity or military requirements. Russia has been able to make headway in countries like Colombia, or countries like Mexico and Peru where before it was very difficult to penetrate.”
Eagerness for vaccine
No matter whose political influence, many Venezuelans are eager to line up for the vaccination. Priority has been given to front-line health workers, members of the military, the police, teachers, and the elderly.
“I want to get it. I’m available, if they need somebody to get vaccinated I’m available,” says one Venezuelan.
Other global powers, including China and India, have begun shipping vaccines to Latin America, but the fight to vaccinate Latin America’s 650 million population against COVID-19 is moving slowly across the continent.
– Reporting by Mary Triny Mena.
Latin American countries lineup for Russia’s Sputnik V COVID-19 vaccine: