Russia warns of delays in Sputnik V vaccine supply to Latin America

FILE PHOTO: A medical specialist holds a vial of Sputnik V vaccine against the coronavirus in a department store in Moscow, Russia
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BUENOS AIRES/MOSCOW (Reuters) - Russia's supply of its Sputnik V COVID-19 vaccine to Latin America, a key overseas sales area, may be delayed by up to three weeks as production capacity is ramped up to meet high demand, a blow for countries relying on it for their inoculation programs.

The Russian Direct Investment Fund and the Gamaleya institute said they were expanding capacity to produce more of the vaccine to meet demand in Latin America, where Argentina, Bolivia, Mexico and others are looking to use it.

Global vaccine makers including British-Swedish firm AstraZeneca and U.S.-based Pfizer Inc are battling to boost COVID-19 vaccine production as countries around the world look to protect their populations amid surging infections.

"We are now upgrading facilities located outside of Russia to ensure the supply to Argentina and the rest of the region. As a result, we will see a significant increase in production in the second quarter," RDIF and Gamaleya said in a statement.

"Until then, some batches may have delays of up to 2-3 weeks."

They added that Argentina, one of the first countries to approve the use of Sputnik V, would continue to receive batches of the vaccine, but that there would be an "adjusted schedule."

"We will return to original delivery schedule once the update is complete," they said.

(Reporting by Nicolas Misculin and Adam Jourdan in Buenos Aires and Polina Ivanova in Moscow; Editing by Paul Simao)