Explaining Brazil #150: Vaccine diplomacy in Latin America

When Latin American countries received their first vaccines, they didn't get them from Western powers — but from China and Russia instead. But these deals often came with strings attached

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.

Listen and subscribe to our podcast from your mobile device:

Spotify, Apple Podcasts, Google Podcasts, Deezer


  • 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.

Background reading:

Do you have a suggestion for our next Explaining Brazil podcast? Drop us a line at [email protected]

Don’t forget to follow us on Twitter and Facebook.