The Russian COVID-19 vaccine started being distributed in Argentina and Belarus on Tuesday. Photo by the Russian Direct Investment Fund/EPA-EFE
Dec. 29 (UPI) -- Argentina and Belarus started mass coronavirus vaccinations using the drug Sputnik V developed by Russia, officials said Tuesday.
Belarus officials said the vaccine is being issued along priority criteria established by the government with healthcare professionals being vaccinated first, followed by teachers, retail workers and other people who have contact with the general public. Belarus officials said the vaccinations are voluntary.
The vaccine also will be manufactured in Belarus beginning in late February or early March.
"We are working on the production of finished vaccines at our pharmaceutical companies in collaboration with Russian partners," Belarus' Healthcare Minister Dmitry Pinevich said. "It is no big secret, the vaccine will be made at Belmedpreparaty, our leading enterprise that has the necessary manufacturing capacities, its own science base, as well as a long history of successful cooperation with Russian counterparts."
Meanwhile, Russian and Argentinian officials said the first batch of the Sputnik V vaccine was delivered to Argentina on Monday.
"We are grateful to [Russian Direct Investment Fund], Russian members of the Russia-Argentina Business Council, and particularly its Chairman Andrey Guryev for their efforts that have enabled the start of the largest mass vaccination campaign in Argentina's history," Amalia Sáenz, chair of the Argentine-Russian Business Council, said in a statement.
Local Argentinian media said Axel Kicillof, governor of the province of Buenos Aires, was among the first in the country to receive the Russian vaccine.
The initial match of 123,000 doses will be given in province while the capital of Buenos Aires will receive 23,100 doses, officials said.