BOGOTA, Colombia 

Argentina on Wednesday became the first Latin American country to approve the emergency use of Russia’s Sputnik V vaccine to stop the spread of COVID-19.   

The government’s decision came as an Aerolineas Argentinas plane is awaiting a cargo of 300,000 doses to be loaded in Moscow before returning to Buenos Aires on Thursday before noon. 

“ANMAT [The National Administration of Drugs, Food and Medical Technology] has recommended the Minister of Health to grant the Emergency Authorization of the Sputnik V vaccine,” said a statement published by the Health Ministry on Wednesday. 

According to the document, the vaccine is a “safe and effective therapeutic tool of access for our country to lower mortality, reduce morbidity and decrease the transmissibility of the disease.”  

The Russian Direct Investment Fund confirmed that ANMAT approved the vaccine “based on the results of phase III clinical trials conducted in Russia.”  

Officials from the Ministry of Health had traveled to Russia recently to learn about the quality and safety of the vaccine. 

Until Wednesday, only Russia and Belarus had approved its use. 

Argentine President Alberto Fernandez, 61, said earlier this month that he would take the vaccine himself first, although Sputnik V has only been tested on volunteers aged 18-60, and therefore, it has been recommended only for people in that age group. Russian President Vladimir Putin, who is 68, does not qualify either.​​​​​​​ 

Health regulators approved the emergency use of Pfizer’s vaccine against COVID-19 on Tuesday and the AstraZeneca vaccine is also expected to be authorized in the next few hours. The vaccination plan will begin on Monday in the South American country, which has registered more than 1,555,000 COVID-19 cases and 42,000 deaths, according to a tally by US-based Johns Hopkins University.

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