Healthcare & Pharmaceuticals

Brazil snaps up local output of Chinese vaccine for national immunization

3 minute read

A woman holds a small bottle labeled with a "Coronavirus COVID-19 Vaccine" sticker and a medical syringe in this illustration taken October 30, 2020. REUTERS/Dado Ruvic

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BRASILIA, Jan 7 (Reuters) - Brazil's government will buy the full output this year of a Chinese COVID-19 vaccine produced by Sao Paulo's Butantan Institute, the health minister said on Thursday, after the biomedical center announced strong efficacy trial data.

Health Minister Eduardo Pazuello said the government is closing a deal for up to 100 million doses of the vaccine developed by China's Sinovac Biotech (SVA.O), called CoronaVac, for use in the national immunization program.

That program, using the CoronaVac doses and 100 million doses of AstraZeneca's (AZN.L) vaccine to be finished at federal biomedical center Fiocruz, will start Jan. 20 at the earliest.

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Brazil faces a second wave of the world's second-deadliest coronavirus outbreak after the United States. The country's death toll passed 200,000 on Thursday.

Right-wing President Jair Bolsonaro has been criticized for downplaying the pandemic's gravity and undermining trust in vaccines. read more

Bolsonaro has said he will refuse any COVID-19 vaccine and spurned Sinovac's shot in particular. He said last year the federal government would not buy a Chinese vaccine.

Butantan announced earlier on Thursday that late-stage trial results in Brazil showed the Chinese vaccine had a 78% efficacy rate and entirely prevented severe COVID-19 cases, as the center seeks emergency use authorization. read more

Speaking at a news conference, Pazuello said liability, production and sovereignty issues were preventing Brazil from reaching a deal to buy doses of a COVID-19 vaccine made by Pfizer (PFE.N).

"We cannot sign a Pfizer deal with the current contractual obligations," he said, adding that the timeline and number of doses offered did not work for Brazil.

Pazuello praised the vaccine developed by Janssen, a unit of Johnson & Johnson (JNJ.N), but said the company could only offer three million doses in the second half of this year.

Brazil is also in talks with a private local company that plans to make Russia's Sputnik V vaccine, he said.

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Reporting by Anthony Boadle and Gabriel Stargardter Editing by Brad Haynes

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