Excess deaths data for 2020 suggests toll three times higher than officially reported, behind only US and Brazil.
Russia has signed contracts to supply Bolivia and Algeria with its Sputnik V COVID-19 vaccine, the country’s sovereign wealth fund has announced.
The Russian Direct Investment Fund (RDIF) said on Wednesday the agreement would make it possible for more than 20 percent of Bolivia’s population to access the vaccine, which is administered in two doses.
Supply would be facilitated by the Russian fund’s international partners in India, China, South Korea and other countries.
Bolivia’s population is 11.35 million and 20 percent would be 2.27 million people.
The development marks the South American nation’s first major vaccine deal.
Bolivian President Luis Arce said Russia would send 6,000 doses, meaning 3,000 treatments, in January to vaccinate its most vulnerable populations, 1.7 million doses by the end of March and the rest “between April and May”.
In another international deal, the RDIF, which funds the vaccine, on Thursday announced it had signed an agreement to supply Algeria with Sputnik V. However, the RDIF did not say how many doses had been agreed.
Algeria has said it plans to begin its vaccination campaign in January, and that the shots will be free for its citizens.
The Sputnik V vaccine is 91.4 percent effective at protecting people from COVID-19, based on interim late-stage trial results.
The Bolivia deal is the latest sign the Russian vaccine is making inroads in Latin American nations eager for more immunisation capacity, including neighbouring Argentina and Venezuela.
On Monday, Reuters news agency reported that Russia’s first big international shipment of its vaccine last week – 300,000 doses sent to Argentina – consisted only of the first dose, which is easier to make than the second dose.
To date, more than 50 countries have made requests for more than 1.2 billion doses of Sputnik V, according to RDIF.
The wealth fund has already announced supply agreements with Mexico for 32 million doses; Brazil for up to 50 million doses; India for 100 million doses, Uzbekistan for up to 35 million doses and Nepal for 25 million doses, according to its website.
Unlike most other COVID-19 vaccines, which are given as two shots of the same product, Sputnik V relies on two doses delivered using different inactive viruses, known as vectors.
Each dose is based on different viral vectors that normally cause the common cold.
Earlier this month at his annual marathon news conference, Russian President Vladimir Putin raised the idea of single-dose option as a “light-vaccine” which would provide less protection than the two doses, but “will still reach 85 percent” effectiveness.
Sputnik V, named after the Soviet satellite that triggered the space race, will be sold to the international market at less than $10 per dose.
For Russian citizens, inoculation will be free of charge.
By comparison, the two-dose vaccines by Pfizer-BioNTech and Moderna cost about $20 and $33 per dose respectively, while Oxford-AstraZeneca’s is available at a much cheaper price of about $4 per jab.