President Alberto Fernández was given the first of the two shots that make up the Sputnik V vaccine against Covid-19 on Thursday, becoming one of the world’s first leaders to take the Russian vaccine.
The Presidency confirmed that the Peronist leader had been given the shot, produced by the Russian laboratory Gamaleya, in a statement. He received the jab from nurse Marcela Yanni at the Hospital Posadas in El Palomar, Buenos Aires Province, one of Argentina’s biggest medical institutions.
"Today I received the Sputnik V vaccine. I thank the Gamaleya Institute for its scientific work, all those who worked so that it reaches us and all the health personnel of our country for their enormous commitment," Fernández wrote in a post on his Twitter account.
The president then urged the rest of the population to get vaccinated. "Getting vaccinated helps us to be immune against the coronavirus. Let's do it," said the 61-year-old.
Fernández is not the only political leader in Argentina to have received the jab. A host of provincial governors have taken the vaccine, while Buenos Aires Province Governor Axel Kicillof has already received the second dose. Provincial Health Minister, Daniel Gollán, 65, received his first dose this week.
ANMAT, Argentina's drug administration agency, approved the use of Sputnik V for those aged over 60 on Wednesday. With the move, Argentina became the first country in Latin America to approve the use of Sputnik V for people in that age range.
ANMAT said studies had shown it had "an acceptable margin of safety" to be applied in that age range and said studies sent by Russia had indicated “an efficacy range of 91.8 percent” for those aged over 60.
The vaccine’s use was initially approved by the Health Ministry on December 23, a day before the first batch of 300,000 doses arrived in the country from Moscow.
Russia registered Sputnik V – named after the Soviet-era satellite – in August, months ahead of Western competitors but before the start of Phase III clinical trials, which left some experts wary. Phase 3 is the final testing round before a drug is approved.
Its developers claim Sputnik V has been shown to be more than 90 percent effective in early trials, and Russia has already launched a vaccination campaign using the shot. Moscow says the shot has been given to some 1.5 million people.
The Russian Direct Investment Fund, which helped develop the vaccine, says Sputnik has also been registered for use in Belarus, Venezuela, Bolivia, Algeria, Serbia, Paraguay, Turkmenistan and the Palestinian territories.
Argentina began administering second doses of Sputnik V this week, having kicked off its own immunisation campaign for healthcare workers aged between 18 and 60 on December 29. More than 200,000 individuals have already received the first jab to date.
Last Saturday the second shipment with 300,000 units of the second doses arrived in the country. The government’s agreement with Russia includes another 19.4 million doses through February, with an option to buy an additional five million.
According to reports this week, government officials and staff at state airline Aerolíneas
Argentinas are preparing an operation for the end of the month which will see three planes travel to Moscow to pick up more than one million doses.
Argentina has also signed a deal to buy doses of the vaccine created by AstraZeneca and Oxford University. It is still negotiating for access to the Pfizer-BioNTech jab.
To date, the country has recorded more than 1.8 million confirmed cases and 46,000 deaths from Covid-19 since March. The Health Ministry says 1.6 million individuals have recovered after infection.