Guatemala not yet seeking refund from Russia over vaccine delays: minister

GUATEMALA CITY, June 30 (Reuters) - Guatemalan Health Minister Amelia Flores clarified on Wednesday she was not yet requesting a refund from Russia after delayed deliveries of the Sputnik V vaccine against COVID-19 and that both countries were still negotiating.

Flores had said a day earlier that the country was requesting a refund after paying some $80 million in April for 8 million doses of the vaccine. It has received just 150,000 of them. read more

"There is a letter seeking the re-negotiation of the contract, but that does not imply the return of the money," Flores told reporters on Wednesday. "The first proposal is to re-negotiate the contract."

When contacted by Reuters, a spokesman for the health ministry confirmed that Flores had meant the country would request a refund as a next possible step - if a re-negotiation with Russia were to fail.

The Russian Direct Investment Fund (RDIF), which is responsible for marketing the vaccine abroad, said it was in talks over delayed deliveries with the Central American nation but denied that it had been asked to refund money.

"There's been no request to refund money paid for Sputnik V delivery," the RDIF said in a statement.

"What is being discussed are possible adjustments to supply schedule and delivery amounts throughout the rest of 2021 to ensure uninterrupted vaccination of Guatemala's population by both doses of Sputnik V."

An RDIF spokesman on Tuesday said more shipments would reach Guatemala both this week and the following as part of the supply contract.

Guatemala, with 18 million inhabitants, has only fully inoculated 158,000 people, just as COVID-19 infections have hit a peak.

Reporting by David Alire Garcia and Sofia Menchu, Writing by Daina Beth Solomon; editing by Diane Craft and Raju Gopalakrishnan

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