With more than 610 deaths as of Wednesday (14), Argentina has passed the 100,000 mark killed by Covid, amid an attempt to speed up vaccination based on the combination of immunizing agents and fear of the variant delta – identified in action minus 15 people arriving from abroad.
Tests for the combination of drugs from different laboratories began on Monday (13), with more than 4,000 volunteers. The idea is to vaccinate those who received, in the first dose, the immunizing agent Spoutink V.
Russian laboratory Gamaleya, which has signed a contract for 10 million vaccines with the Argentine government, said it does not have the industrial capacity to meet the agreement on time, due to the worsening pandemic in Russia. Thus, more than 6 million Argentines who received the first dose of Sputnik V risk exceeding the limit of 3 months, considered as the maximum interval between the first and the second application, without being fully immunized. Three hundred thousand have already passed this deadline.
Sputnik V is a two-component vaccine. Therefore, in theory, whoever took the first dose of this vaccine, a non-replicating viral vector, must wait for the second component from the same laboratory.
However, studies attempt to assess the possibility of supplementing immunization with a dose of AstraZeneca, also a non-replicating viral vector, or Sinopharm, an inactivated virus. The tests, the results of which are expected to be published in three weeks, are being carried out by the National Council for Scientific and Technical Research.
For infectious disease specialist Jorge Geffner, who is participating in the study, the vaccine mixture “is a good solution and, in principle, safe”. “There is no reason why they should be incompatible, because they all have the same goal.”
Initially, due to the slow arrival of vaccines in the country, the government decided to extend the application of the first dose, by extending the distribution period of the second, to increase the Argentinian vaccination coverage. Thus, 43.6% of the adult population received one dose, and 11.2% both.
“It was the right decision from a pragmatic point of view, at the beginning,” explains infectious disease specialist Javier Farina. “The appearance of the delta variant and the reduced effectiveness of immunizing agents against this mutation, however, indicate that the right thing to do now is to run with the second dose,” he says.
The dose combination test is linked to this shift in focus, as was the purchase last week of 20 million doses of Moderna’s vaccine, which have yet to be delivered. President Alberto Fernández has come under heavy criticism from the opposition for refusing an offer from Pfizer in August last year over a “question of national sovereignty”.
Patricia Bullrich, leader of PRO, the main opposition party, said the Peronist demanded a bribe from the US laboratory and, faced with the refusal, negotiations were halted. In response, Fernández filed a libel suit against Bullrich, and the point is that, at the moment, Argentina is without an immunizing agent for the drug, despite having participated in the drug development tests.
The government has also resumed restrictions in an attempt to stop the spread of the second wave, which began just after the summer break, when bars, restaurants, local flights and hotels were made more flexible. On June 1, the country hit a record 35,000 cases per day.
International travel, which was released on a controlled basis in September 2020, has again been severely restricted, and the maximum daily limit for passenger entry into the country, from 2,000 in February, is now raised to 600, a little more than three full. planes. .
Since last year, flights to and from Chile, Brazil and Mexico have been completely banned. Planes destined for Europe and the United States have again been released.
With a large influx of passengers who have traveled to Miami or Madrid to get vaccinated or go on vacation, the most recent measure reached 45,000 Argentines abroad. One of those who have been temporarily “stranded” out of the country is former President Mauricio Macri, whose return flight from Switzerland has been canceled.
The opposition has been pushing hard for this number to be revised, and from next week 1,500 people will be allowed per day – the figure is expected to gradually increase until it returns to pre-election levels. pandemic. Even so, only Argentines and residents can enter the country, which remains closed to international tourism. Brazilians who are in Argentina must return via the land border.
Florencia Carignano, Director of Migration, said that for the full restoration of the flow of international flights, it is necessary for everyone to comply with the protocol on arrival, which includes an antigen test paid for by the disembarking passenger, a PCR test for those who have tested positive and quarantine for seven days. In some provinces, containment must be in hotels paid for by the traveler.
This week, however, at least three passengers arriving from the United States, Paraguay and Panama with the delta variant have broken the rules and are being searched by police. “We are laying charges against them all, for an attack on public health,” Carignano said.
With legislative elections slated for November, governments, both national and provincial, have made decisions based on the ballot box. The opposition, which commands the federal capital, Buenos Aires, for example, has a profile favorable to the opening of the economy, and the head of government of the city, Horacio Rodríguez Larreta, defends that shops, restaurants and others activities continue to work with protocols.
The national government and some Peronist-ruled provinces, such as Buenos Aires, advocate more aggressive policies, such as curfews and the use of public transport only for essential workers. Still others are investing to save their local economies, which are heavily focused on tourism. The province of Salta, for example, distributes AstraZeneca and Sinopharm vaccines at tourist sites and intends to stimulate vaccination tourism in the country.
Fernández, in turn, faces a decline in popularity. At the start of his administration and the pandemic, in April 2020, the president reached over 70% approval, mainly due to the good handling of the health crisis and the agreement to restructure the external debt. Today, however, that figure has fallen to 34%, according to the Poliarquía Institute. The drop is linked to the increase in poverty, by 42%, the high inflation, by 35% accumulated last year, and the fact that, even with a long quarantine of almost seven months, the number of cases and death remains at a high level.
In one of his speeches, at the start of his forties, Fernández said the hard measures had a purpose: “I would rather have 10% more poor people than 100,000 dead.” But now the scenario is one of increasing poverty amid 100,000 deaths caused by Covid-19.