SAO PAULO – The administration of Brazilian President Jair Bolsonaro has backed away from its criticism of Chinese vaccines and agreed to buy up to 100 million doses of a shot developed by China’s Sinovac as Latin America faces an outbreak after the Covid-19 holidays.
Mr Bolsonaro, a former army captain who followed President Trump’s leadership in defeating China, has long discredited Sinovac’s vaccine, which has been tested by a state research center in a partnership backed by his political rival, Sao Paulo Governor Joao Doria. Just two months ago, Mr Bolsonaro told his supporters that the CoronaVac vaccine could kill or deactivate them without offering evidence, and refused to buy it.
But in the last few months, the Chinese vaccine has emerged as one of the best bets to fight a pandemic that has cost the lives of more than 200,000 people here, second only to the United States
The health ministry said late Thursday that it had signed a contract with the Bhutan Institute, the state-run research center in Sao Paulo that tests and manufactures CoronaVac, to purchase 46 million doses. The ministry said it could buy another 54 million, enough to immunize 50 million people with the two doses, or about a quarter of Brazil̵
Latin America is vying to secure doses as cases increase across the region. Hundreds of thousands more people tested positive in Latin America this week after many opposed government warnings and held large family gatherings during the holidays and crowded beaches in the early summer of the Southern Hemisphere. With only 8% of the world’s population, Latin America has accounted for nearly 30% of Covid-19 deaths.