Brazil nears deal to produce Oxford coronavirus vaccine

FILE PHOTO: Small bottles labeled with a "Vaccine COVID-19" sticker and a medical syringe are seen in this illustration taken taken April 10, 2020. REUTERS/Dado Ruvic/Illustration/File Photo

BRASILIA/SAO PAULO (Reuters) - Brazil is likely to sign a contract this week to produce a trial vaccine developed by Oxford University to guard against the novel coronavirus, the country’s interim health minister Eduardo Pazuello said on Tuesday.

Human clinical trials in Brazil for the potential vaccine started this weekend with 3,000 people in Sao Paulo and Rio de Janeiro.

Interim health minister Eduardo Pazuello said in a hearing with lawmakers that a deal could be signed tomorrow and that other partnerships with vaccines developers could also be forged soon.

This month, Brazil’s health regulator Anvisa approved human clinical trials for the potential vaccine, developed by Oxford and supported by AstraZeneca Plc.

Brazil, where the disease is still rife, is the first country outside the United Kingdom to start testing the Oxford vaccine.

Researchers expect to launch the vaccine by year-end.

Brazil’s government plans to roll out a mass test reaching 24% of the country’s population, a health ministry official said during the hearing. Further details on the plan are expected to be released on Wednesday.

Brazil has more than 1 million cases of COVID-19 and 51,000 deaths caused by the virus.

Reporting by Ricardo Brito, in Brasilia, and Eduardo Simoes, in Sao Paulo, writing by Carolina Mandl; Editing by Steve Orlofsky, Jonathan Oatis and David Gregorio