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Data: Axios research; Graphic: Andrew Witherspoon/Axios

Serbia joined Argentina, Belarus and Russia this week to be among the first countries to approve and administer Russia's Sputnik V vaccine.

The big picture: Russia has blazed its own course in the vaccine race, relying entirely on a single, state-funded vaccine that was given emergency authorization before much data was available about its effectiveness.

  • The vaccine's developers say it has a 91% efficacy rate, though that's yet to be confirmed by a medical journal or international regulator.

Now, Russia is seeking to vaccinate its population while also exporting doses around the world. The government says 1 million Russians have been vaccinated, but it has fallen far behind the number of doses it promised to deliver to cities and regions by now, per the WSJ.

  • German Chancellor Angela Merkel told Vladimir Putin on Wednesday that she is open to manufacturing doses of the vaccine in Germany, if it's approved by EU health regulators.
  • But a Hungarian government spokesman said last week that Hungary was no longer planning to rely on the Sputnik vaccine due to Russia's "inadequate manufacturing capacity" — instead focusing on vaccines provided by the EU and sourced from another world power: China.

The state of play: Health regulators in China recently approved the country's first homegrown vaccine, developed by the state-owned pharmaceutical company Sinopharm, for general use.

  • The UAE, Bahrain, Pakistan and Morocco are among those slated to receive Sinopharm doses, while Turkey, Indonesia and Brazil have preordered a vaccine developed by another Chinese company called Sinovac Biotech.
  • Regulators in Brazil announced Thursday that the Sinovac vaccine is 78% effective. Sinopharm says its vaccine is 79% effective, based on preliminary data.

What to watch: If China's vaccines prove effective — and the country can manufacture sufficient quantities to cover domestic needs and significant exports to the developing world — that could markedly improve the outlook for global vaccination in the coming years. It could also offer China a significant soft power boost.

  • Part of the reason that so many countries are lining up for doses of the Pfizer and Moderna vaccines is that the more expensive Pfizer and Moderna vaccines are bound almost exclusively for the rich world.

Go deeper:

Go deeper

Jan 30, 2021 - World

Germany to impose travel restrictions to curb spread of coronavirus variants

Border police officers check passports and COVID-19 tests at Frankfurt Airport. Photo: Thomas Lohnes via Getty Images

Germany announced Friday that it was imposing new travel restrictions in an effort to curb the spread of more contagious coronavirus variants.

Details: All non-German residents traveling from countries deemed "areas of variant concern," including the United Kingdom, South Africa, Portugal, Ireland, Brazil, Lesotho and Eswatini, will be banned from entering the country, even if they test negative for the coronavirus.

Jan 30, 2021 - World

Science helps New Zealand avoid another coronavirus lockdown

New Zealand Prime Minister Jacinda Ardern (L) visits a lab at Auckland University in December. Photo: Phil Walter/Getty Images

New Zealand has avoided locking down for a second time over COVID-19 community cases because of a swift, science-led response.

Why it matters: The Health Ministry said in an email to Axios Friday there's "no evidence of community transmission" despite three people testing positive after leaving managed hotel isolation. That means Kiwis can continue to visit bars, restaurants and events as much of the world remains on lockdown.

Updated 17 mins ago - Politics & Policy

Scoop: Trump’s friends worry legal pick for N.Y. case lacks experience

Photo illustration: Sarah Grillo/Axios. Photo: Brandon Bell/Getty Images

Close associates and advisers to Donald Trump tell Axios they're concerned by his decision to use a relatively inexperienced New Jersey attorney, Alina Habba, in his high-stakes legal fight against New York Attorney General Letitia James.

Why it matters: A former president typically has access to the country's most prestigious experts, including lawyers. Trump has turned to the former general counsel for a parking garage company, who works from a small law office near his Bedminster, N.J., country club.