First 300,000 doses of Russia's Sputnik vaccine arrive in Argentina to fight COVID-19

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COVID-19 vaccine arrives in Buenos Aires

BUENOS AIRES (Reuters) - Some 300,000 doses of Russia's Sputnik V COVID-19 vaccine arrived in Argentina on Thursday morning, following its approval by the government for emergency use.

On a special flight of carrier Aerolineas Argentinas from Moscow, the vaccine arrived at Ezeiza international airport, in the suburbs of Buenos Aires, according to Reuters witnesses and images shown on local television.

Argentine officials said they expect to start administering the vaccine in the days ahead. So far 42,314 people in the country have died of COVID-19, according to official data.

On Wednesday Argentina became the third country to approve the Sputnik V vaccine, after Russia and Belarus. Argentina has also approved Pfizer's COVID-19 vaccine.

Russia's Direct Investment Fund, or RDIF, the country's sovereign wealth fund, issued a statement heralding the Christmas Eve arrival of the vaccine in Argentina, saying it had 91.4% efficacy, based on recent trials. Against severe coronavirus cases, the vaccine had 100% efficacy, it said.

"There were 20 severe cases of coronavirus infection among confirmed cases in the placebo group and no severe cases in the vaccine group," it said.

The cost of one dose is less than $10 for international markets, according to the statement.

Some Western scientists have raised concerns about the speedat which Russia has worked, giving the regulatory go-ahead forits vaccines and launching large-scale vaccinations before fulltrials to test Sputnik V's safety and efficacy have beencompleted. Russia says the criticism is unfounded.

(Reporting by Nicolas Misculin and Jorge Otaola, writing by Hugh Bronstein, editing by Alexandra Hudson)