Although the Argentine Government wants to be “more Russian” than Vladimir Putin, the chances of getting the second component of the Sputnik V vaccine against it in time coronavirus they look like fade slowly. It is not speculation: this week the last chapter of a long chronicle took place, of what clearly seems an announced death.
Component 2 death certificate is officially signed 50 days ago in Russia, when that country approved the euphemistically called Sputnik Light. It is half of the original vaccine, although its effectiveness – according to published data – is 79 percent. With the full scheme, the ERA goes up to 92.
However, the extinction of component 2 began earlier, almost from the moment of your birth. One thing was the vaccine trial. Another, having to produce it in quantity to inoculate the Russians and, also, the inhabitants of 67 other countries that were approved this year, in which 3.5 million people live.
While Russia did not stop in its eagerness to promote the vaccine around the world, the gaps in the manufacture of components 1 and 2. A question so far not answered is whether Argentina knew, from the moment it signed a contract for $ 200 million, that this problem existed.
The key can be traced back to the day that Russia announced the start of trials with the Sputnik Light. It was last January 11, ago 164 days. Barely 300 thousand doses of the first component had arrived in our country and it was almost a week before the first ones arrived. 300 thousand doses of the second. Today, the accumulated total of second components in Argentina does not reach 2 million.
The Minister of Health of the Nation, Carla Vizzotti, during a press conference at Casa Rosada.
Argentines began to realize these inconveniences when, more and more, the lags between the arrivals of those first and second doses became evident. Until today, barely an “elite” could be vaccinated with the complete scheme of the Russian vaccine: 2 out of 10 immunized.
This Wednesday, the Russian government explained openly and bluntly that the second doses were not available for the external market because the priority is the domestic demand of that country. In other words, they repeated what they had already said six months ago. But at the time it was music that no one seemed to hear.
This issue, added to the fact that the manufacture of the second component is very slower and more delicate That of the first (product of the instability presented by the raw material of replicating adenovirus 5), resulted in this enormous deficit that today holds millions of Argentines hostage.
Russia says, in short, that there are no second doses for everyone because the few that it manages to produce they go for the russians, something that in principle sounds quite reasonable. The caveat is that Russia sold our country a “house with a pool” and the pool for now is just a well on the ground. Meanwhile, the Argentine Minister of Health, Carla Vizzotti, instead of claiming the compromised “amenity” affirms that there are no second doses because, simply, it’s hard to make them.
Administering only part of the truth allows the Argentine government to maintain its political complicity with Russia, without the discomfort that incurring in a strongest claim, as it has done before the AstraZeneca laboratory in May, when the vaccines promised for March had not yet arrived.
The last shipment of Sputnik arrived in the country, on June 8.
The reality is that Russia, said by the government of that country itself, created Sputnik Light to market its vaccine abroad, given the difficulties of scaling up the production of the second component. So what he decided to offer is neither more nor less than the first component: logically, less effective than the full scheme.
The problem is that Argentina signed its contract with the Gamaleya Center before Sputnik Light existed. And there it was written that of the 20 million doses purchased -at 10 dollars each one-, half should correspond to the first component and the other half, to the second.
If Russia continues to send components 1 on the flights that are scheduled for the next few weeks, that contract would soon be altered: Only 2.4 million doses are needed to complete the first 10 million doses. The rest should consist of seconds.
Sputnik Light is not yet approved in Argentina. That is to say that, healthily speaking, the 6 million citizens who did not receive the second dose of the Russian vaccine would not be satisfactorily vaccinated. Could this change if Argentina decided to take the “light shortcut”, which has already been approved in Moscow?
Vizzotti continues to affirm, before each microphone that they put in front of him, that all Argentines will receive the complete schedule of vaccines. The nuance is that if the Sputnik Light were finally approved in our country, the new complete scheme of the Russian vaccine would become only the first component. And despite the untidiness of the case, no one could claim otherwise.
Sputnik vaccine vials used in the Tecnópolis vaccination center. Photo: EFE
In the controversy over the lack of second doses of Sputnik V, the Chief of Staff, Santiago Cafiero, also participated in the last hours. He equated the first component of the Russian vaccine with the Johnson & Johnson single dose. Strictly speaking, a dose of Sputnik theoretically provides more protection than the American one. But neither Sputnik Light nor J&J are approved in the country.
The conditions to arrive at this scenario were prepared during the last months. There was a problem that was going to emerge at some point. And the moment is this. In the meantime, scientific studies on the effectiveness of the first component alone from Sputnik V. One of these works was carried out by researchers from Conicet: they concluded that the effectiveness of the first component was high and much more in those people who had already had Covid.
The Russian Fund for Direct Investment also released, on June 2, data from the province of Buenos Aires to support the effectiveness of the Sputnik Light: as announced, an 80 percent efficacy had been demonstrated in older adults with a single dose.
The Argentine scientists who carried out these studies celebrated these results, which from a health point of view could provide some reassurance, although at the same time they were unable to resolve the uncertainty on a key point: how long does it last the effectiveness of a single dose.
So these conclusions, always provisional and somewhat fragile, were building an attempt to legitimize the alternative pharmaceutical product, which was no longer the one that the country had acquired. But to put it with the real estate metaphor: that some summer is eventually less hot, it does not imply that the buyer of the house with a pool wants to give up taking their well-deserved dip.