After months of arduous negotiations, congressional controversy and a presidential decree smoothing the way, Health Minister Carla Vizzotti announced Tuesday that Argentina had signed an agreement with US pharmaceutical firm Pfizer for 20 million Covid-19 vaccines.
"Yesterday [Monday] I signed a binding agreement with Pfizer for 20 million doses of vaccines during 2021," said the official at a press conference at the Casa Rosada.
Vizzotti said details over logistics and delivery dates were still to be finalised. She said that the Pfizer jabs may be used primarily for minors, an age group the Alberto Fernández administration is keen to target, given that they have been authorised for paediatric use by health agencies in several countries.
The shots will enable Argentina "to be able to expand [vaccination] to that age group and to continue working on accelerating vaccination in 2021 and thinking about our strategy for 2022," said Vizzotti.
The agreement with Pfizer comes after months of negotiations and the issuing of a presidential decree specifically to unblock talks which had become bogged down, despite Argentina having supplied volunteers for Phase III trials of the vaccine from the US laboratory.
The minister also revealed that the first 200,000 doses of the one-shot vaccine produced by Chinese laboratory CanSino Biologics would arrive in Argentina in the next few days.
The government signed a deal for those shots earlier this year and has ordered a total 5.4 million doses of the jab.
Addressing the evolution of Covid-19 in Argentina, Vizzotti said that Argentina had now recorded “nine consecutive weeks of decrease in cases and seven [consecutive weeks] with a fall in deaths and hospitalisations in Intensive Care [units] of people with a diagnosis of Sars-Cov-2."
She stressed, however, that it was not time for citizens to let down their guard.
"Let's continue taking care of ourselves. Individual care has a collective impact and we are very close to reaching the life we want and finding that relief,” adding that the “horizon is very close.”
Vizzotti said that the government had now taken delivery of 41,833,840 doses of vaccines against the coronavirus, of which almost 90 percent have been distributed to provincial and regional governments across the country.
Around 5.6 million jabs are either awaiting distribution or are en route to their destination. That number is particularly high as it includes 3.5 million Moderna vaccine doses recently donated by the United States government – those have been reserved initially to immunise adolescents between 12 and 17 years of age with risk factors. The Federal Health Council will meet Tuesday to finalise details of vaccination for that group.
According to the government’s Public Vaccination Monitor, 24.09 million people have received at least one dose of Covid-19 vaccine in Argentina, with 6.13 million fully vaccinated.
Vizzotti also responded to questions regarding delays in the delivery of second doses of the Sputnik V shot, with the official insisting that “there is no conflict with the Russian Federation.”
"We have had uninterrupted contact from October 2020 until today. If you look at the amount of vaccines that Russia handed over to Argentina, there can be no doubt that Russia prioritises Argentina, even with the second component," she stressed.
The minister said she hoped to “have news in the coming weeks.”
Vizzotti said that “all vaccination schedules would be completed” and would not be “restarted,” even amid delays. “The effect of the first dose is not lost," she insisted.
Since March 2020, Argentina has recorded 104,105 fatalities related to Covid-19, from a total of 4,859,170 confirmed cases.