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The “Spatial” Race for a COVID-19 Vaccine

As the space race in the 1960s, the race for the COVID-19 vaccine has become a matter of politics, and today China, Russia, and U.S. are desperately competing to spread their variants around the world

Sao Paulo-Brazil. In the once busy terminals of the Sao Paulo-Guarulhos airport, where the echo of hundreds of voices used to be heard, and the grinding of rolling carts and suitcases that in turn were momentarily deafened by calls to board, a cryptic silence is heard where the bustle was silenced by a pandemic and the hallways , in which 48 million passengers previously passed in a year, now are empty and it can only be heard the echo of the heels of a stewardess who counts the few people who still travel.

The chaír are no longer crowded and the waiting lines are ridiculously short and passers who still reluctantly travel, they do it only for work. In the cafeteria two discreet men with the appearance of academics who do not detach themselves from their tablets, have a coffee while they wait for the next call to board, their destination: Moscow.

As the first academic rehearses his basic Russian on Duolingo, the second reads a Journal translated into English for epidemiology, the theme of the text: the results of the last trial phase of Sputnik V, the Russian coronavirus vaccine.

The two academics in question are members of the Paraná Institute of Technology and travel to Moscow in order to negotiate the possibility of mass production of the Russian vaccine in Brazil.

The Russian ambassador in Brasilia, Sergey Akopov, had already commented on the possibility of cooperation between both countries to distribute the vaccine. Undoubtedly, producing the vaccine in Brazil would save Latin America’s first economy a few headaches to get enough inventory in 2021.

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China Russia and U.S. are competing for a mass dissemination vaccine against COVID-19. (AFP)

The “spatial” race for a vaccine

As the space race in the 1960s, the race for the COVID-19 vaccine has become a matter of politics, and today China, Russia, and U.S. are desperately competing to spread their variants around the world as quickly as possible.

The first country to have a vaccine will naturally have the privilege of being the first to fully reactivate its economy, which will give it a comparative advantage over other countries that will only be able to start their openings once the countries with stock sell them from their inventory.

Chinese Communist Party Secretary General Xi Jinping promised WHO that he would make the COVID-19 vaccine a public good. With this promise, China seeks to gain influence over the United States by giving the appearance of global solidarity, however there are doubts about whether China is able to cover its commitment as quickly as Secretary Xi affirms.

By far China is the country that has done the most tests of the vaccines that are developing its laboratories and according to some experts, the CoronaVAC -of the Jiaxing Center for Disease Prevention- already has a market price of 200 yuan (USD $ 29. 5).

By early November more than 60,000 people in China had been vaccinated. Already 4 Chinese vaccines are in their final stage of testing and awaiting approval to go to market.

For its part, Russia claims that Sputnik V is as efficient as its Moderna and Pfizer counterparts. According to the results of the third stage of the Russian variant, it is 95% effective.

Sputnik V has already managed to cross borders and today it is demanded by countries as far culturally from Russia as Argentina and Brazil. In fact, the President of Argentina, Alberto Fernandez, affirms that with this vaccine he will do “the largest vaccination campaign seen in Argentina.”

The United States chose to support the efforts of private laboratories such as Moderna, Pfizer, and Aztrazeneca as part of Operation Warp Speed. Funds have been transferred to these laboratories to accelerate their research and have a vaccine ready for distribution by the end of the year.

United States by early 2021 could have a stock of over 1 billion doses of its vaccines, which would leave it with a clear surplus to sell and offer in the international market.

The World Health Organization anticipates that if progress in the development of these vaccines continues for the first months of 2021, the population at risk will begin to be vaccinated and a return to normality would be available for the summer. Due to concerns of disproportionate access by higher-income countries, more than 172 countries have subscribed to the so-called COVAX agreement that seeks the equitable distribution of 2 billion doses of the vaccine throughout the world.

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