Brazil asks Chinese embassy for help securing extra COVID-19 vaccines: document

FILE PHOTO: A nurse holds China's Sinovac vaccine, a potential vaccine for the coronavirus disease (COVID-19), at the Sao Lucas Hospital of the Pontifical Catholic University of Rio Grande do Sul (PUCRS), in Porto Alegre, Brazil August 8, 2020. REUTERS/Diego Vara

BRASILIA (Reuters) - Brazil has asked the Chinese embassy to help secure 30 million doses of a COVID-19 vaccine from China to ensure its inoculation program does not grind to a halt, according to a document seen by Reuters.

In a letter sent to China’s ambassador to Brazil, Yang Wanming, a senior Health Ministry official asked for help in the potential purchase and delivery of the shots from the Sinopharm laboratory in the first half of this year.

According to the letter written by Elcio Franco, Executive Secretary at the Health Ministry, Brazil’s vaccination program is in danger if it cannot secure more doses.

So far, Brazil, with the second highest death toll in the world, has vaccinated only about 4% of its population.

“The immunization campaign ... is at risk due to the lack of doses, given the scarcity of international supply. Therefore, the Health Ministry has been seeking to establish contact with new suppliers, in particular Sinopharm, whose vaccine is proven to be effective against COVID-19,” Franco said in the letter.

So far, Brazil has relied on supplies of the Chinese vaccine Coronavac, made by Sinovac, and AstraZeneca Plc’s vaccine, developed with Oxford University.

Last week, Brazil said it intended to buy 100 million doses this year from Pfizer Inc and 38 million from Janssen, the pharmaceutical subsidiary of Johnson & Johnson.

Reporting by Lisandra Paraguassu; Writing by Jamie McGeever; Editing by Nick Macfie