Brazil is lacking vaccine supplies and its coronavirus infection and death figures remain at high levels. While the crisis in India has dominated global headlines of late, Brazil’s health emergency is far from over.
Therefore, it came as a shock when Brazilian health regulator Anvisa decided to deny emergency approval to the Russian-made Sputnik V vaccine, which is already being distributed in other Latin American countries.
The decision came as a massive setback to Moscow, which has been using vaccines as a soft power tool. And Russia is not alone in this. In fact, the very few countries with the ability to produce coronavirus vaccines at scale have been using these medicines as instruments of influence.
This week, we will talk about why Brazil is shunning Sputnik V — and how that plays into much broader geopolitical games.
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- Flávio da Fonseca is a professor at the microbiology department of the Federal University of Minas Gerais, a member of that university’s Center for Vaccine technology, and the current president of the Brazilian Virology Society.
- David Fidler is a senior fellow for global health and cybersecurity at the Council on Foreign Relations. He is an expert in international law, cybersecurity, national security, terrorism, counterinsurgency, international trade, biosecurity, and global health.
- Follow our Covid-19 live blog to keep up to date with the most important news related to the pandemic in Brazil and Latin America.
- Brasília correspondent Renato Alves has followed Sputnik V’s path in Brazil. Back in January, he talked to the local representatives for the vaccine. We also followed the growing concerns around the immunizer, before the recent regulatory setback. Renato also wrote about how a call from Vladimir Putin changed Jair Bolsonaro’s stance on Sputnik V.
- However, if you don’t have the time, Renato summed up the Sputnik V odyssey here.
- The biggest example of vaccine diplomacy happened in Paraguay, as China put pressure on the vaccine-desperate country to change its stance on Taiwan. In Brazil, Beijing worked to avoid Huawei being banned from the country’s 5G auction.
- The 2020 annual report by the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services (HHS) clearly showed how U.S. authorities tried to convince Brazil not to purchase Sputnik V, out of fear of enhanced Russian influence in Latin America. The report mentioned the move as a way to “combat malignant influences in the Americas.”
- The Brazilian government’s pandemic response is being investigated by the Senate. We break down the first testimony.
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