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Panama seeks 3 million doses of Russia's COVID-19 vaccine - letter

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PANAMA CITY (Reuters) - Panama’s government is seeking 3 million doses of Russia’s Sputnik V vaccine against COVID-19 for 1.5 million people, hoping to receive them by March, a letter of intent signed by the country’s Health Ministry showed.

The Central American nation has one of the highest numbers of confirmed infections in the region and said recently it had allocated $56 million to purchase a total of 5.5 million doses for about 80% of its population. It was not immediately clear if Sputnik V was part of that allocation.

“Our geographical position makes us one of the most important centers for connectivity by air, land and sea in our region, and has exposed us to greater risk than other countries,” said the letter seen by Reuters.

“The government of Panama through its pharmacy and drug regulatory authority is ready to issue an emergency use license for the Sputnik V vaccine.”

The letter, dated Wednesday, is signed by Health Minister Luis Francisco Sucre and addressed to the Russian Direct Investment Fund, which is responsible for marketing the vaccine abroad.

A source in the ministry confirmed its authenticity.

Panama had 324,489 confirmed cases of COVID-19 and 5,391 deaths as of Thursday.

Reporting by Elida Moreno in Panama City; Writing by Stefanie Eschenbacher; Editing by Peter Cooney

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