Algeria to roll out Russian COVID-19 vaccine in January

Besides wariness about Sputnik’s quick pace of registration, limited production capacity in Russia has worried experts.
Thursday 31/12/2020
A nurse works on COVID-19 tests Sunday, Dec.6, 2020 in a private laboratory of Algiers. (AFP)
A nurse works on COVID-19 tests Sunday, Dec.6, 2020 in a private laboratory of Algiers. (AFP)

ALGIERS--Russia has signed a contract with Algeria to supply it with the Sputnik V vaccine, the RDIF sovereign wealth fund said on Thursday.

The RDIF statement did not say how many doses had been agreed.

Late Wednesday, the Algerian government announced the country will begin rolling out the Sputnik V Covid-19 vaccine in January.

Algeria had signed a “mutual agreement with a Russian laboratory for acquisition of the coronavirus vaccine from January,” said Communications Minister Ammar Belhimer.

Authorities will receive an initial shipment of 500,000 doses, Finance Ministry Director-General Abdelaziz Fayed told local broadcaster Echorouk.

The announcement came a day after the elderly president of the North African nation, Abdelmadjid Tebboune, returned home following a two-month absence in Germany where he was treated for a coronavirus infection.

Moscow announced the registration of Sputnik V back in August after it had completed just the second phase of trials on under 100 volunteers.

The Russian decision of registering Sputnik V had raised concerns from scientists at home and abroad who said the decision was premature without wider clinical trials and the publication of scientific results. A more practical concern has been Russia’s limited production capacity.

Russia will have supplied more than 1 million doses of its COVID-19 vaccine Sputnik V to its own national inoculation programme by the end of this year, a government minister said on Wednesday.

Russia, which began its own vaccination campaign on December 5, starting with at-risk workers, has so far produced over 2 million doses in total, Industry Minister Denis Manturov told state television.

The Sputnik V vaccine is administered in two doses, which use different components, 21 days apart.

The current production rate will allow the vaccine to be rolled out across Russia’s regions and be exported to other countries, such as Bolivia and Argentina,  at the same time, Manturov said.

Russia sent 300,000 doses of the vaccine to Argentina last week, causing frustration at home, with some people arguing that more shots should be made available at home.

Hungary has decided not to rely on Russia’s vaccine because of limited quantities.

Some analysts have viewed the fast-track registration and the early launch of mass vaccination as a bid by Russia to bolster geopolitical influence.

Algeria has recorded nearly 100,000 Covid-19 infections and more than 2,750 deaths from the disease, according to the health ministry.