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Brazil reports incoming vaccines amid supply concerns

RIO DE JANEIRO (AP) – Brazil’s health ministry said on Thursday that a shipment of 2 million doses of coronavirus vaccine was coming from India, a report that comes as public health experts warn of undersupply in South America’s largest country. .

The vaccine, developed by AstraZeneca and the University of Oxford, will clear customs in Sao Paulo on Friday before being taken to Rio de Janeiro, home of the Fiocruz State Institute in Brazil, the ministry said. Fiocruz has partnered with AstraZeneca and Oxford to distribute and manufacture the vaccine.

The flight from India, scheduled for last week, was delayed, rejecting the federal government̵

7;s plan to launch immunization with an AstraZeneca shot. Instead, vaccination began with a CoronaVac shot in Sao Paulo, where the Bhutan State Institute has a deal with Chinese biopharmaceutical company Sinovac.

Neither Fiocruz nor Butantan received the technology from their vaccine production partners in the country and must import the active ingredient instead.

The announcement of the 2 million doses from India comes when increasingly vocal Brazilian experts have expressed concern about the influx of raw materials from Asia needed to produce vaccines for the nation of 210 million people.

“Counting doses from Bhutan and India, there is not enough vaccine and there is no certainty when Brazil will have more or how much,” said Mario Schaefer, a professor of preventive medicine at the University of Sao Paulo, The Associated Press. “In the near future, this will hamper our ability to achieve collective immunity.”

The Indian embassy in Brazil did not immediately respond to a request for comment on the announced shipment, nor the reason for last week’s delay.

Bhutan provided 6 million doses of CoronaVac imported from China to start the immunization of Brazil, and used materials imported from China to bottle an additional 4.8 million photos. The health regulator must approve the use of the last batch before it can be distributed to states and municipalities in Brazil.

Schaefer estimated in a report published on January 18 that the government would need 10 million doses just to cover first-line health workers, leaving the elderly and other high-risk Brazilians in priority groups without any vaccines. The government’s immunization plan does not specify how many Brazilians are included in the priority groups.

Brazil has registered 212,000 deaths related to COVID-19, the second largest in the world after the United States, and infections and deaths are rising again.

While Brazil has a proud history of decades of immunization campaigns, in this pandemic it has struggled to come up with a complete plan and suffered many logistical pitfalls.

“The vaccination plan is generally bad,” said Domingos Alves, an associate professor of social medicine at the University of Sao Paulo. “It is important that the information is transparent and clear so that the population knows how this vaccination process will be carried out.”

There has been some speculation on social media that diplomatic snaffs, namely those from Brazilian President Jair Bolsonaro’s allies who criticized the Chinese government, could explain the delay in obtaining the necessary data.

Oliver Stuenkel, a professor of international relations at the Getulio Vargas Foundation, told the AP that such a reading was too simplistic amid heightened global demand.

“Of course, since Bolsonaro is not on good terms with the Chinese government, he doesn’t really have direct access,” said Stenkel of São Paulo. “There is a chance that bad relations will end Brazil, but not because the Chinese are actively saying ‘Let’s punish Brazil,’ but maybe because other presidents have better relations.”

Folha de S.Paulo reported on Wednesday that Brazilian Health Minister Eduardo Pasuelo had met with China’s ambassador to Brazil and that Bolsonaro had asked to talk to China’s Xi Jinping. Filipe Martins, Bolsonaro’s international relations adviser, said in a television interview the same day that Brazil was looking for suppliers from other countries.

“Negotiations are advanced,” Martins told RedeTV! He added that there was “a lot of noise for nothing”.

Lawmakers, including Parliament Speaker Rodrigo Maya and the president of the Brazil-China parliamentary group, Senator Roberto Rocha, also met with the Chinese ambassador.

Bhutan planned to deliver 46 million doses to Brazil’s health ministry by April. Imports of 5,400 liters of the active ingredient are expected before the end of the month to make about 5.5 million doses, and new shipments from China are subject to permission from the Chinese government, according to a statement from the press service.

Fiocruz originally planned to deliver 100 million doses in February and another 110 million in the second half of the year. As of December 30, his plan had been reduced to 30 million doses by the end of February, but the first delivery was postponed to March, the institute told the AP.

“Brazil does not have vaccines available for its population,” said Margaret Dalcolmo, a prominent pulmonologist who treated patients with COVID-19 throughout the pandemic, at an event in Rio this week while receiving an award. “It’s absolutely unjustified. There is nothing, no explanation to justify this. “

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