Brazil approves two COVID-19 vaccines

Sao Paolo | Mon, January 18, 2021 | 08:05 pm

On Sunday, Brazil’s health regulator gave emergency approval for two coronavirus vaccines, setting off a mass inoculation program in the midst of a devastating second outbreak wave that kills over 1,000 people every day in the vast nation of South America. After the highly awaited decision by the Anvisa watchdog, Monica Calazans, a 54-year-old nurse in Sao Paulo, became the first person in Brazil to receive the Chinese CoronaVac jab. Anvisa also approved the Covishield shot from AstraZeneca and Oxford University for use in the nation whose death toll of Covid-19 now exceeds 209,000 – exceeded only by the United States.

Minister of Health Eduardo Pazuello declared that on Monday, the government would start distributing vaccines to all 27 states for a national inoculation campaign to begin on Wednesday. Activists gathered outside to inflate a greater-than-life effigy of far-right President Jair Bolsonaro, his hands dripping with metaphorical gore, as Anvisa met in the capital of Brasilia. After a fresh outbreak that has hit the northern Amazon state especially hard, Bolsonaro, who has downplayed the virus and railed against lockdowns, face masks and other “hysteria,” has come under renewed scrutiny for his handling of the epidemic.

While several nations, including some of its neighbors, have already begun vaccination campaigns, Brazil has lagged behind, with a population of some 213 million. And CoronaVac was pulled between Bolsonaro, who repeatedly tried to dismiss it, and Governor Joao Doria of Sao Paulo São Paulo, a defender, into a political standoff. At an event that also saw Vanusa Costa Santos, a member of the Kaimbe tribe, receive a jab, Doria attended the official first Sunday vaccination of Calazans. As a “marketing ploy” by Bolsonaro’s competitor, Pazuello denounced the Sao Paulo case.

When the national program begins in earnest, health staff, people older than 75, residents of old-age homes and aboriginal communities will be the first to be vaccinated. Two doses are required for both vaccines. CoronaVac is manufactured in Sao Paulo by the Chinese company Sinovac and the Butantan Institute. It has been approved in China, Indonesia and Turkey for emergency use. The AstraZeneca jab is manufactured in India by the Serum Institute, approved in the United Kingdom, Argentina and India, and under investigation by the European Union.

Sao Paulo currently has six million doses of the CoronaVac vaccine, and this month the Ministry of Health revealed it had signed an agreement with Butantan to manufacture an additional 100 million doses. Brazil said earlier this month that the Chinese vaccine had been shown to be 50 percent effective in avoiding virus infection. As for the Oxford vaccine, findings reported in December showed that, depending on the dose, it was between 62 percent and 90 percent successful.

Both tend to fall short of the more than 90% efficacy reported for vaccines produced by Pfizer and Moderna, the US pharmaceutical companies. Bolsonaro announced last week that a commercial aircraft will be sent to India to collect two million doses of Covishield, despite the fact that New Delhi, which has just launched its own mass inoculation program, has yet to provide the green light. Sunday’s approval came in the midst of a catastrophic second wave of the COVID-19 outbreak that has seen hospitals run out of beds and life-saving oxygen in the Amazon rainforest city of Manaus.

With hospitalizations hitting far greater levels than during the first wave, when emergency oxygen supplies were rushed in from outside and patients flown to hospitals in other nations, Manaus again had to deploy refrigerator trucks to store corpses. Manaus last Wednesday saw a fourth straight day of unprecedented burials, according to official figures. It is also suspected that the state is at the root of a new strain of the virus recently found in Japan, which scientists warn is potentially more infectious.

Whether this variant is the reason for the revival is not clear. A 7:00 p.m. ten-day curfew Towards 6:00 a.m. In a bid to stop the rapid viral spread, Amazonas came into force last Friday, and a court forced the state government to shut down non-essential businesses for 15 days. Bolsonaro blames the health and economic crisis unleashed by the coronavirus on state governors and mayors, saying the federal government has allocated all the money needed to tackle the outbreak. His position sparked last Friday’s demonstrations in several cities.

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