U.S. pressured Brazil to ditch Russia’s Sputnik V vaccine

U.S. authorities tried to convince Brazil not to purchase Sputnik V, out of fear of enhanced Russian influence in Latin America

U.S. pressured Brazil to ditch Russia's Sputnik V vaccine
Medics and police officers check a shipment of the Russia’s Sputnik V vaccine in the Gaza Strip, on February 17, 2021. Photo: Abed Rahim Khatib/Shutterstock

The official Twitter account of the Russian-made Sputnik V vaccine denounced that U.S. authorities tried to convince Brazil not to purchase Sputnik V, out of fear of enhanced Russian influence in Latin America.

To corroborate their claims, the Russian firm published the 2020 Annual Report of the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services (HHS). The 71-page document includes one bullet point about “Combatting malignant influences in the Americas”:

OGA [The Office of Global Affairs] used diplomatic relations in the Americas region to mitigate efforts by states, including Cuba, Venezuela, and Russia, who are working to increase their influence in the region to the detriment of US safety and security. OGA coordinated with other U.S. government agencies to strengthen diplomatic ties and offer technical and humanitarian assistance to dissuade countries in the region from accepting aid from these ill-intentioned states. Examples include using OGA’s Health Attaché office to persuade Brazil to reject the Russian COVID-19 vaccine, and offering CDC technical assistance in lieu of Panama accepting an offer of Cuban doctors.

Under President Jair Bolsonaro, Brazilian diplomacy has opted for automatic alignment with the U.S. — at least, while Donald Trump was in the White House. However, it is unclear whether the federal government’s early resistance to Sputnik V was due to diplomatic pressure or simply Mr. Bolsonaro’s own anti-vaccine stance.

A study published in scientific journal The Lancet early in February showed that the Russian-made vaccine has 91.6-percent efficacy against mild cases of Covid-19.

Sputnik V in Brazil

Still, Sputnik V has yet to obtain regulatory approval for distribution or use in Brazil. On December 29 of last year, Goiás-based lab União Química — which will produce the Russian vaccine in Brazil — filed for authorization to hold clinical trials in the country. At the time, federal health regulators requested additional information on the vaccine’s prior trials but have not heard back from the lab.

That didn’t prevent a consortium of governors from northeastern states from inking a 37-million-dose purchase agreement over the weekend. The deal was announced alongside the Health Ministry, and the vaccines will become part of the national vaccination effort.

In October 2020, Brasília correspondent Renato Alves interviewed Rogério Rosso, União Química’s international director. Mr. Rosso said that the Brazilian laboratory signed a non-disclosure agreement, forbidding the company from leaking any technical or scientific information regarding the vaccine.

So far, less than 5 percent of the Brazilian population has received at least one shot of a coronavirus vaccine — and only 1.7 percent have gotten two jabs.

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