Coronavirus vaccines in South America: inside the region’s race to vaccinate against Kovid-19

“Latin American countries will come regardless of where they come from,” said Parsifal D’Sola, founder and CEO of the Andres Bello Foundation, a think tank dedicated to Chinese-Latin American relationships. “So far, developed countries have purchased more than 50% of the available vaccines, so Latin America will likely reach China and Russia to fill the void.”

Coronavac, created by the Chinese company Synovac, is already part of mass distribution in Brazil. Russia’s Sputnik V vaccines have been applied by many countries including Argentina and Bolivia. But broadly, the regional distribution of vaccines is messy and uneven with no coordinated approach, and it remains to be seen how the epidemic may shape future diplomatic relations between South America and the rest of the world.

As Cynthia Aronson, director of the Latin American Program at the Wilson Center Policy Forum in Washington, CNN, South American countries, said “it has rarely been so disintegrated and has been unable to formulate common strategy.”

Here is their vaccination campaign for now:


Alberto Fernandez’s leftist government was the first in the world to be under the safe orders of the Russian-developed Sputnik v vaccine.

In December, flag bearer Aeroline Argentinas live-tweeted a special flight to Moscow to take the first dose, an indication of how close the partnership with Russia to Buenos Aires is.

According to Duke University’s database of vaccine pre-purchase agreements, Argentina has also received orders for about 50 million doses from other manufacturers.

All vaccines released so far are from Russia.


Brazil has been the most hit in the world by coronoviruses, and its vaccine saga has turned ugly with state governors, who have been critical of the federal government for lack of coordination, and President Jair Bolsonaro casts doubt on the vaccines.
How Brazil's Kovid-19 vaccine plan broke

Compared to its neighbors, the manufacturing capacity of the vaccine is stronger in Brazil. However, experts say that the country lagged behind in the race to buy active ingredients to produce them.

Now, the country’s best hope is the Chinese Coronavac vaccine, which is an ironic result, with signs of hostility towards China. More than 2 million doses have already been sent to Brasil, by far the highest number in the region.


Bolivia experienced a change in power in November when leftist President Louis Aers replaced Jeanine Aanz.

While he awaits the first COVAX dose allocated to Bolivia, Aers has been able to secure at least 20,000 Russian vaccine doses, which arrived in Bolivia on 28 January.

The purchase indicates close ties with both Russia and Argentina, where President Fernandez Aers and his predecessor Ivo Morales are close allies.


Public figures from Duke University show that Chile had already purchased vaccines from Western manufacturers AstraZeneca, Pfizer and Johnson & Johnson, but the largest order was placed for China’s Coronavac. China is already Chile’s top economic partner.

Despite ordering more than 90 million vaccine doses for a population of less than 20 million people, Chile’s vaccination program is yet to steam off. So far less than 70,000 people have been vaccinated.


Colombia is the largest South American country that has still not introduced vaccination.

President Ivan Dukey responded to critics, saying that the country is mostly dependent on the COVAX system and promises that vaccination will begin from February 20.

Colombia, the United States’ closest ally, did not buy vaccines directly from Russia, but recently announced a small purchase of Chinese-made Coronavac.


Last month, this Andean country launched its vaccination program using the Pfizer / Bioentech vaccine. Like other nations of the region, the COVAX system is eagerly awaited to begin dosing.

Ecuador is holding a presidential election on Sunday. Front runner left wing candidate Andres Arrouz has harshly criticized the government’s handling of the crisis, and claimed that if elected, he would secure millions more doses from China and Russia via Argentina.

Guyana and Suriname

Neither has initiated vaccination – but the effects of the epidemic have been modest, with fewer than 10 thousand cases in each.

Both are dose-receiving via COVAX.


The only land-related country in South America is a case study for vaccine diplomacy.

Paraguay does not have diplomatic relations with Beijing, and has recognized Taiwan – claimed by China – as the legitimate republic of China.

Last year, a group of lawmakers introduced a proposal to the Senate to change recognition in Beijing’s favor, in hopes of getting more medical supplies to curb the epidemic. The vote did not pass.

Paraguay has not yet received a single dose of the vaccine, but is waiting for more than 4 million doses via COVAX.


Like neighboring Colombia, Peru has not yet received any dose. The two countries are expected to be the first to receive vaccines from COVAX, but Peru has also tapped into China’s cyanopharma vaccine to boost its arsenal.

In total, Peru is expecting more than 50 million doses, thanks to vaccine trials conducted last year to provide manufacturers with valuable data.


Following Venezuela, Uruguay has the lowest reported Kovid-19 deaths per million people in South America. The government has orders with both Pfizer and Sinovac, while about 2 million doses are also expected through COVAX.

One of the smallest countries in the region, Uruguay has already started vaccination.

President Lacley Pau called the vaccines “an impressive commercial war” around them.


On paper, Venezuela is the South American country least affected by the epidemic.

However, doubts remain over President Nicolas Maduro’s government’s ability to effectively track matters in the country.

Maduro announced that Venezuela would receive vaccines from its traditional partners Russia and China in early October, but no vaccination campaign has yet been put in place.

Maduro is hoping to get Cuban vaccine Sobrana 01, which is still under development.

According to the Pan American Health Organization, Venezuela was barred from payment in January for not joining COVAX.

Correction: This story has been updated to correct the spelling of Cynthia Aronson’s last name.