BRASILIA (Reuters) -Brazil’s Health Ministry expects to have at least 150 million doses of vaccines against COVID-19 available in the first half of 2021, with a third or more coming from a Chinese company despite the president’s early skepticism.
Arnaldo Medeiros, a health ministry official, also told a congressional hearing on Tuesday that an initial deal to acquire 46 million doses of vaccine developed by China’s Sinovac Biotech could soon be expanded to 100 million doses.
The Sao Paulo state government’s Butantan Institute is expected on Wednesday to present data from its late-stage trial of the Sinovac vaccine, called CoronaVac, which has already begun rolling off its fill-and-finish production line.
President Jair Bolsonaro had snubbed that vaccine, citing doubts about its “origin” and trading barbs with Sao Paulo Governor Joao Doria, a political rival. But the Health Ministry has been eager to secure supplies of it as the global rush for vaccines heats up.
The federal government’s Fiocruz biomedical center is also expected to begin fill-and-finish of the AstraZeneca vaccine in coming months, delivering the first shots on Feb. 8. The ministry expects 104 million doses by June, officials said.
Separately, the ministry is in talks with Pfizer Inc to receive 8 million doses of the vaccine it developed with Germany’s BioNTech SE in the first half of 2021.
No COVID-19 vaccine has been approved yet for use in Brazil. The Pfizer/BioNTech shot has been authorized in several countries, including the United States, the UK and Canada.
Bolsonaro, who has repeatedly played down the severity of the pandemic, has said he will not take any vaccine, stoking broader skepticism toward the shots among Brazilians. Brazil’s public health authorities, however, have said they will use any vaccine approved by regulators.
(Reporting by Lisandra ParaguassuWriting by Sabrina Valle and Marcelo Rochabrun; Editing by Brad Haynes and Bill Berkrot)