BRASILIA/RIO DE JANEIRO (Reuters) - Brazil’s government is in advanced talks with Pfizer Inc to buy 70 million doses of its COVID-19 vaccine and a Memorandum of Intent should be signed this week, the Health Ministry said on Monday.
The ministry said in a statement that the vaccine developed by Pfizer and BioNTech, whose final trial results showed it had a 95% success rate and no serious side effects, will be delivered next year.
Earlier on Monday, President Jair Bolsonaro said that the government will offer COVID-19 vaccines to all Brazilians free of charge, once health regulator Anvisa gives it scientific and legal approval.
In a post on his Twitter account, Bolsonaro said the economy ministry has assured him that there will be no shortage of resources to administer a vaccine to everyone who wants one.
“Once certified by @anvisa_oficial (scientific guidelines and legal precepts), @govbr will offer the vaccine to all, free of charge and not mandatory,” Bolsonaro tweeted.
Bolsonaro’s tweet came shortly before the president of Sao Paulo’s Butantan Institute biomedical center, Dimas Covas, said all necessary data for the CoronaVac vaccine developed by China’s Sinovac Biotech Ltd has been or will soon be sent to health regulator Anvisa.
He expects Anvisa to approve it, regardless of the political storm between Bolsonaro and Sao Paulo Governor Joao Doria over competing vaccines.
“I want to think that no political problem is bigger than people’s lives,” Covas said in an interview with GloboNews.
Doria said earlier on Monday that the country’s most populous state plans to start vaccinating its population against COVID-19 on Jan. 25, The federal government expects to roll out its own immunization plan at least a month later.
Doria’s ambitious timeline comes even though the Sinovac vaccine has yet to be approved by Anvisa.
Doria has frequently clashed over the vaccine with Bolsonaro, an aggressive China critic who has baselessly dismissed the Sinovac candidate as lacking credibility.
A successful early rollout would mark a significant political victory for Doria, a center-right politician who is expected to run against Bolsonaro in the 2022 presidential elections.
Brazil has the world’s third highest coronavirus case count at more than 6.6 million, and the second heaviest death toll of more than 177,000.
Reporting by Jamie McGeever, Pedro Fonseca, Ana Mano, Eduardo Simoes and Anthony Boadle; Writing by Jamie McGeever and Gram Slattery; Editing by Stephen Eisenhammer, Jonathan Oatis, Christian Plumb and David Gregorio
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