For Covid-19 Vaccines, Latin America Turns to China and Russia
LIMA, Peru—Across Latin America, governments are desperate for coronavirus vaccines as the only way out of a pandemic that has ravaged economies and left hundreds of thousands of people dead.
But instead of looking to the U.S. for help, Latin America is so far relying on Washington’s global rivals: China and Russia.
In Argentina and Bolivia, authorities have begun vaccinating with Russia’s Sputnik V, which will soon arrive in Mexico. Chile began inoculating this month with 4 million doses of China’s Sinovac vaccine, which President Sebastián Piñera said gave Chileans hope they would emerge from the pandemic. Peruvians celebrated as television stations broadcast this month’s arrival of a commercial flight carrying China’s Sinopharm vaccine.
In Brazil, President Jair Bolsonaro disparaged Chinese vaccines. But his government agreed to use millions of doses of Sinovac’s CoronaVac vaccine after it became clear in January it was the best shot for Brazil to emerge from a pandemic that has killed almost 250,000 people, the second-worst death toll after the U.S.
“The view of many in Latin America is that this is not simply talk, but action from China,” said Margaret Myers, who follows Chinese relations with Latin America at Inter-American Dialogue, a Washington policy group. “I think this will have a major impact.”
Thomas Shannon, a former U.S. under secretary of state for political affairs who oversaw American policy in Latin America, said providing vaccines to the region permits Moscow to expand ties that were severed after the Cold War.
“So what the coronavirus has done and what the vaccines have done is give Russia another opportunity to build relationships in South America,” he said.