BRASILIA (Reuters) – President Jair Bolsonaro on Thursday said Brazil never paid for or received any doses of a coronavirus vaccine developed by Indian company Bharat Biotech, in response to allegations of irregularities in a deal that is under investigation.
Federal prosecutors and a special Senate committee are investigating the deal for Bharat Biotech’s Covaxin shot, citing the fact that the government struck a speedy agreement when offers from Pfizer in 2020 at a lower price were ignored at the time.
“We didn’t spend one cent on Covaxin. We didn’t receive one dose of Covaxin. What sort of corruption is this?” Bolsonaro said.
The president pledged to take action if any corruption was discovered in his government. Bolsonaro said the price for the Bharat vaccines was broadly in line with other countries.
He said the government’s position has always been to only carry out purchases of vaccines after they are approved for use by federal health authority Anvisa.
Covaxin has yet to receive approval for public use, although it has received permission to conduct a phase 3 clinical trial via a Brazilian partner company.
On Wednesday, Bharat Biotech said in a statement that it had yet to provide vaccine supplies to Brazil and that it has been consistent and transparent in its pricing with all governments.
(Reporting by Jake Spring and Maria Carolina Marcello; editing by Richard Pullin)