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On Sunday March 14 2021, Brasil Wire published an exclusive story on how the United States pressured its ally, Brazil’s Bolsonaro regime, into rejecting Sputnik V, the world’s first approved Covid-19 vaccine, developed by Russia’s Gamaleya institute.
The story, by investigative journalist John McEvoy, was based on discovery of a report from the US Department of Health and Human Services, in which they boasted of combatting “malign Russian, Cuban and Venezuelan influence in Latin America”, through persuading governments to refuse offers of medical help, cooperation and technology transfer.
One of the success stories HHS referred to in the 2020 report, was that they had convinced Brazil not to purchase Russia’s Sputnik V vaccine. Another point of US pride was discouraging Panama, which has one of the region’s worst Covid-19 rates, from allowing Cuban doctors into the country to alleviate its own crisis.
US efforts to prevent Brazil deploying Sputnik V in its fight against the world’s second worst Covid-19 outbreak fit into a wider campaign of western propaganda against the vaccine, in which it was depicted as untested, unsafe and ineffective, due to its emergency rollout before the publication of stage 3 trial data.
Sputnik V was approved for use in August 2020, and began to be offered globally, with Argentina, Venezuela, Palestine, Hungary, UAE, and Iran among the early takers of both the vaccine, and the technology to manufacture it. Medical journal the Lancet later reported that Sputnik V was safe, and had 92% efficacy against the virus.
Dr Julian Tang, clinical virologist, told the BBC:
“Despite the earlier misgivings about the way this Russian Sputnik V vaccine was rolled out more widely – ahead of sufficient Phase 3 trial data – this approach has been justified to some extent now. Such pandemic-related vaccine rollout compromises have, to be fair, been adopted in the UK vaccination programme also – with the extended intervals between the first and second doses. So we should be more careful about being overly critical about other countries’ vaccine designs.”
With Brazil’s death toll approaching 280,000,