Argentina on Thursday began distributing the first batch of more than one million doses of the Russian Sputnik V Covid-19 vaccine produced domestically.
The government announced on June 4 that local pharmaceutical company Laboratorios Richmond SA would manufacture the vaccine using an antigen provided by the Moscow-based maker of Sputnik.
So far the pharmaceutical firm has produced 995,000 units of the first dose and 152,000 of the second.
"This is the first delivery of the second Sputnik component from the three million doses that will be produced by Laboratorios Richmond in August," the Russian Sovereign Investment Fund said in a statement released in Moscow.
Inoculation with Sputnik V requires two doses that differ from one another and were not designed to be swapped or mixed with other vaccines.
The Russian Direct Investment Fund (RDIF) that financed Sputnik V and markets it abroad said that Laboratorios Richmond is expected to produce two million more doses in August.
Last December, Sputnik V became the first coronavirus vaccine to be offered in Argentina but there have been major delays in shipping the second dose.
The government has threatened to cancel its contract with Russia and last week it started administering Moderna and AstraZeneca vaccines in place of the second Sputnik dose.
The government has prioritised giving first doses to its 45 million people. So far, nearly 59 percent of the population have received at least one dose, and only 20 percent have received both shots.
Delivery of this new batch of vaccines was overseen by Cabinet Chief Santiago Cafiero and Health Minister Carla Vizzotti at a mail centre of the Andreai firm, which is in charge of distributing the doses to Argentina's provinces.
"The Sputnik V vaccine is an excellent vaccine. It has had very positive results in relation to its effectiveness against the Delta variant, [being] 83 percent effective for infections and almost 95 percent for hospitalisations," Vizzotti said to the press.
The minister also assured that Argentina "is not going to suspend any contract with any laboratory" – a reference to reports that some nation states were cancelling existing deals amid a shortage of doses. Instead, "we are going to work to get as many doses as possible as soon as possible," said Vizzotti.
As of Thursday, 26.4 million people in Argentina (58.6 percent of the population) had received at least their first dose of Covid-19 vaccine, with 9.3 million (20.6 million) classified as having completed their vaccination schedule.
Argentina, with a population of some 45 million, has so far taken delivery of some 40.7 million doses of Covid-19 vaccines, including shots of Sputnik V, Sinopharm and Astrazeneca, in addition to 3.5 million jabs of Moderna donated by the US government.