It’s doubtless that the recent midterm election results - and the resultant defeat for the Kirchnerist government - were at least in part spurred on by the government placing heavy bets on the Russian Sputnik V vaccine.

Argentine vaccine rates are far lower than neighboring countries. Coupled with a lockdown noted for its extremity in an already floundering economy, it seems that the Sputnik V vaccine was one of the many nails in the party’s coffin. But what happened to the world’s first Covid vaccine and why was it such a disaster?

The Launch

In August of 2020, five months into the pandemic, Human Vaccine, a subsidiary of the Russian Direct Investment Fund, announced the development of a breakthrough Covid-19 vaccine. This was no ordinary launch - Sputnik V had its own social media accounts and was heavily marketed by the Russian state-owned media.

An already suspicious global community was quick to point out problems with the idea and the vaccine’s safety, efficacy and rollout program. The Russian media apparatus, instead of acknowledging or responding to these worries, instead initiated attempted smear campaigns against internationally developed vaccines like Pfizer and Moderna.

A Botched Rollout Program

The RDIF was quick to market the Sputnik V vaccine to developing nations and former Soviet states before properly calculating what quantity of the vaccine could be produced in time to keep up with orders. These problems soon caught up with Argentine authorities, particularly after a law banning donations from US-based pharmaceutical companies came into effect (before being revoked in 2021).

The international distrust for the Russian vaccine intensified when it was brought to light by the Moscow times that the RDIF had granted sole distribution rights to a company owned by a minor Emiriti royal by the name of Sheikh Ahmed Dalmook al-Maktoum. Al-Maktoum was then able to resell the vaccine to developing countries at a massive markup, hindering nations already struggling with minimal public health infrastructure.

The vaccine was listed as unsafe for use in the EU, US, China, Japan, South Korea, South Africa and Canada - all of which are considered as having reliable regulatory bodies for everything from medicines to the tragamonedas Chile offers.

Argentina’s Response

After chiding the RDIF for its slow delivery, unexplained setbacks and lack of commitment to aiding Argentina in implementing a domestic production program (and under pressure from the opposition), Fernandez agreed to re-enter into discussions with Pfizer to try and secure a more reliable source of the vaccine.

But, according to critics, this response was too little too late - criticisms that were reflected in the election results. Why it took so long to do this, and why the government was banking so heavily on the success of the Sputnik V vaccine despite the caution shown by other countries is still somewhat mysterious.

This mistake was going to cost them a lot, and the opposition was quick to use this to their advantage. That being said, this didn’t only result in more votes for the centre-right but other parties have also begun to gain traction in areas known for strong support of the two major parties.