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BUENOS AIRES, Argentina, Mon. Dec. 28, 20202 (Reuters) – Argentina will begin vaccinating its citizens against coronavirus on Tuesday, Dec. 29, 2020 using the recently delivered Russian Sputnik V vaccine, the government said on Saturday, following its approval by health authorities for emergency use.

Argentine president Alberto Fernández and provincial governors said health personnel would receive their vaccines in less than 72 hours. Around 300,000 doses arrived in Argentina on Thursday, and subsequent shipments are expected early in 2021.

“The idea is that when the (southern hemisphere) fall arrives we will have a large number of at-risk people vaccinated,” Fernandez said in a meeting with provincial governors.

Argentina, the third largest economy in Latin America, has been hard hit by COVID-19 and logged nearly 1.6 million cases of the coronavirus and 42,501 deaths from the disease. Fears of a second wave are growing.

The Russian vaccine is set to arrive in each province of the South American nation by Monday, and on Tuesday morning the first doses will be administered, the government said in a statement.

On Wednesday, Argentina became the third country to approve the Sputnik V vaccine, after Russia and Belarus. Argentina has also approved the Pfizer and BioNTech COVID-19 vaccine.

Some Western scientists have raised concerns about the speed at which Russia has worked, giving the regulatory go-ahead for its vaccines and launching large-scale vaccinations before full trials to test Sputnik V’s safety and efficacy have been completed.

Russia says the criticism is unfounded.

(Reporting by Jorge Otaola, writing by Dave Sherwood; Editing by Aurora Ellis)

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