Wednesday, February 8, 2023

Brazil approves AstraZeneca and Chinese coronavirus vaccines

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Brazil’s health regulator has given the green light to Chinese-made Oxford / AstraZeneca and Sinovac coronavirus vaccines, paving the way for Latin America’s largest country to begin a vaccination program that has been marred by delays and political quarrels.

Following a five-hour marathon presentation broadcast live on Sunday, the board of directors of watchdog Anvisa (Agência Nacional de Vigilância Sanitária) voted unanimously to allow the emergency use of the two vaccines in a country that has the second highest death toll from Covid-19, at nearly 210,000.

“There is only one enemy. Our best chance in this war must be to change social behavior. Without this, even with a vaccine, the victory will not be achieved, ”said Antônio Barra Torres, head of the agency, during the event.

Shortly after the decision, a 54-year-old nurse from São Paulo became the first to receive an injection, with Health Minister Eduardo Pazuello saying the country could reach up to 1 million people vaccinated per day.

The clearance follows controversy over the effectiveness of the Sinovac jab, named CoronaVac, which was jointly developed by the Beijing-based company and the Butantan Institute in São Paulo.

After initially revealing that the jab was showing a 78% efficiency during trials in Brazil, scientists from the biomedical institute earlier this week clarified that the “generalized efficacy rate”, which includes cases with very mild symptoms, was roughly 50 percent – barely above the threshold for a vaccine to be considered viable.

210m

The people of Brazil. Government ordered 254 million doses of Oxford / AstraZeneca vaccine and 100 million CoronaVac

The new data on CoronaVac has further fueled skepticism about the Chinese-made vaccine, which has long been the target of attacks by right-wing President Jair Bolsonaro and his supporters. Some 22% of Brazilians say they would not take a vaccine, in line with Mr Bolsonaro’s own stance, even as infections and deaths rise.

Anvisa’s emergency approval, legally effective once published in the government’s official journal, opens the door for Brazilian health officials to start administering injections as early as this week. It covers 6 million doses of CoronaVac imported from China and a batch of 2 million Oxford / AstraZeneca jabs that have yet to be shipped from India, which has just launched its own vaccination program.

To inoculate its population of 210 million, Brazil has ordered 254 million doses of the Oxford / AstraZeneca and 100 million CoronaVac vaccine, respectively, most of which will be produced in the country.

However, it is lagging not only developed countries but also other countries in the region, including Argentina and Mexico, which launched vaccination programs last month.

The ministers said priority would be given to Manaus, the riverside capital of Amazonas state. the health system there was overwhelmed by hospital admissions and deaths are due to oxygen shortage.

Concerns have also arisen about the availability of supplies needed to administer vaccines, especially syringes.

Critics say the situation is the result of mismanagement by the health ministry, which Mr Bolsonaro has stacked with military officers often in place of medical professionals. Mr. Pazuello, the minister, is an active duty general, but with a background in logistics.

“With the exception of some areas where there are still qualified people, most management roles are occupied by people who do not have the necessary qualifications, and they are unable to implement the mechanism to develop skills. programs already established, such as the country’s immunization program, ”said Fernando Aith, professor of public health at the University of São Paulo.

Despite the delays, however, Pazuello predicted that Brazil will export vaccines “very soon” given the country’s pharmaceutical manufacturing capabilities.

In addition to the two vaccines approved on Sunday, the country is also considering purchasing the BioNTech / Pfizer vaccine, but ministers backed down at the manufacturer’s request for exemption from liability for side effects.

Brazil’s health regulator on Saturday requested additional data on Russia’s Sputnik V vaccine, after finding that minimum requirements had not been met in an emergency use request submitted by a local drug maker.

Additional reporting by Carolina Pulice

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