BRASILIA (Reuters) -Brazil’s government has signed a deal with Sao Paulo’s Butantan Institute to buy the full output this year of a Chinese COVID-19 vaccine it is producing, the institute said, after announcing strong efficacy trial data.
Earlier in the day, Health Minister Eduardo Pazuello said the government was closing a deal for up to 100 million doses of the vaccine developed by China’s Sinovac Biotech, called CoronaVac, for use in the national immunization program.
That program, using the CoronaVac doses and 100 million doses of AstraZeneca’s vaccine to be finished at federal biomedical center Fiocruz, will start Jan. 20 at the earliest.
Later, Butantan said it had signed the deal with the government for an initial 46 million doses with another 54-million dose option later.
Brazil faces a second wave of the world’s second-deadliest coronavirus outbreak after the United States. The country’s death toll passed 200,000 on Thursday.
Right-wing President Jair Bolsonaro has been criticized for downplaying the pandemic’s gravity and undermining trust in vaccines.
Bolsonaro has said he will refuse any COVID-19 vaccine and spurned Sinovac’s shot in particular. He said last year the federal government would not buy a Chinese vaccine.
Butantan announced earlier on Thursday that late-stage trial results in Brazil showed the Chinese vaccine had a 78% efficacy rate and entirely prevented severe COVID-19 cases, as the center seeks emergency use authorization.
Speaking at a news conference, Pazuello said liability, production and sovereignty issues were preventing Brazil from reaching a deal to buy doses of a COVID-19 vaccine made by Pfizer.
“We cannot sign a Pfizer deal with the current contractual obligations,” he said, adding the timeline and number of doses offered did not work for Brazil.
Pazuello praised the vaccine developed by Janssen, a unit of Johnson & Johnson, but said the company could only offer three million doses in the second half of this year.
Brazil is also in talks with a private local company that plans to make Russia’s Sputnik V vaccine, he said.
(Reporting by Gabriel Stargardter and Anthony BoadleEditing by Brad Haynes, Sam Holmes and Lincoln Feast.)