Chile says in talks with Russia to acquire Sputnik V vaccine

SANTIAGO, Feb 9 (Reuters) - Chile is negotiating to acquire doses of the Sputnik V coronavirus vaccine in the first half of 2021, the government said on Tuesday, making the South American nation the latest in a growing list of countries to seek the Russian vaccine.

Although Sputnik V was slow to take off amid a lack of information about the vaccine, interest shot up after peer-reviewed trial results published last week showed it was almost 92% effective in fighting COVID-19.

Chile’s trade undersecretary confirmed to Reuters a report in daily newspaper El Mercurio that negotiations with Russia had begun.

Russia has sent a large shipment of its Sputnik V to neighboring Argentina. Bolivia, too, has received initial doses of the vaccine from Russia, while several other Latin American countries have said they are now negotiating with Russia.

Chile moved fast and early to lock down vaccines, signing deals with U.S.-based Pfizer, British-Swedish firm AstraZeneca, U.S.-based Johnson & Johnson and China’s Sinovac, but has yet to announce an agreement with Russia.

Nearly 800,000 people in Chile, including front-line medical workers and many of its elderly, have been vaccinated against the virus. The country has set a target of inoculating around five million people - more than one-quarter of its population - by the end of March.

The program is voluntary and free. (Reporting by Fabian Cambero, Writing by Dave Sherwood Editing by Paul Simao)