Wednesday, October 4, 2023

Hard-hit Brazil approves two COVID vaccines for emergency use | News on the coronavirus pandemic

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The health regulator is authorizing emergency use of the Sinovac and AstraZeneca vaccines amid the devastating second wave of the pandemic.

Brazil’s health regulator has granted emergency approval to two COVID-19 vaccines as the country prepares for a mass inoculation campaign during a devastating second wave of the pandemic.

Regulator Anvisa on Sunday approved vaccines from Chinese Sinovac Biotech and Britain’s AstraZeneca for emergency use in Brazil, which has recorded more than 209,000 deaths linked to the new coronavirus since the start of the crisis.

Anvisa’s board of directors unanimously voted to approve the two vaccines after nearly five hours of deliberations.

Minutes after the vote, Monica Calazans, a 54-year-old nurse in Sao Paulo, became the first person to be vaccinated in Brazil, receiving the Chinese vaccine known as CoronaVac.

Brazilian President Jair Bolsonaro, a coronavirus skeptic who has refused to be vaccinated himself, is under pressure to start vaccinations as the number of deaths and cases in the country continues to rise rapidly.

Brazil has recorded more than 8.45 million cases of COVID-19 to date, according to Johns Hopkins University, the third highest in the world after the United States and India.

Relatives of patients in hospital or receiving care at home, most suffering from COVID-19, carry cylinders as they buy oxygen from a private company in Manaus [Bruno Kelly/Reuters]

Delays in vaccine shipments and test results, however, have delayed vaccinations in Brazil so far.

Bolsonaro’s government planned to launch a national immunization program this week, but it is still awaiting shipments of the AstraZeneca vaccine.

Sao Paulo Governor Joao Doria, who oversees the Butantan Biomedical Center which has partnered with Sinovac in Brazil, said on Sunday that widespread immunizations could begin immediately.

But Health Minister Eduardo Pazuello told a press conference the government would start distributing vaccines to states on Monday morning. Brazil could potentially immunize a million people a day, he said.

‘A very dramatic situation’

Adding to the urgency is the fact that a new variant of COVID-19 was discovered in Brazil this week.

The variant shares some characteristics with those found in Britain and South Africa, which are considered by scientists to be more transmissible but not causing more severe disease.

Amazonas state in the north of the country is also struggling to respond to an increase in the number of cases and hospitalizations as healthcare workers are pushed to their limits and lack equipment such as the ‘oxygen.

The Brazilian Air Force said on Saturday that a second flight providing emergency supplies had landed in Manaus, the state capital, with eight tanks of liquid oxygen. This followed an earlier delivery of five tanks. The navy also said it will send 40 respirators.

Pazuello, the Minister of Health, said earlier this week that Manaus’s hospital system was collapsing due to COVID-19.

Al Jazeera’s Monica Yanakiew, reporting from Manaus on Sunday, said people are still looking for oxygen to help COVID-19 patients there, some of whom are staying at home because hospitals are full.

“It’s a very dramatic situation. People are lining up for more oxygen tanks, and they’re still lining up in front of hospitals because they can’t see their loved ones, ”said Yanakiew.


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