Brazil banking on vaccination to control Covid pandemic in 2nd quarter

Rio de Janeiro, Mar 17 (efe-epa).- Brazil, the current world epicenter of the coronavirus pandemic, is banking on increasing its vaccination campaign to control the spread of the virus in the second quarter of this year after having achieved more stable vaccine production, the incoming and outgoing health ministers both said on Wednesday.

One day after Brazil registered its highest daily Covid death toll of 2,840, the current minister, Army Gen. Eduardo Pazuello, and his designated successor, cardiologist Marcelo Queiroga, both insisted that vaccination is the main strategy for combating the virus despite admitting that the results of the campaign will only be seen in the medium or long term.

Brazil on Wednesday set a new daily Covid infection record, with 90,303 newly confirmed cases reported by the Health Ministry, bringing the total caseload to 11,693,383, while 2,648 virus deaths were reported in the past 24 hours, putting the country’s death toll at almost 285,000.

The country is in the No. 2 spot after the United States in terms of its total Covid death toll.

Both men also defended, albeit rather hesitantly and without providing details, certain measures to control the virus in the short term, including social distancing, despite the fact that such protocols are continually criticized by President Jair Bolsonaro, the leader of Brazil’s denialist ultraright.

The two men said that it was symbolic that Brazil on Wednesday was beginning to distribute the first vaccine doses produced by the Health Ministry just as new Covid death records were being set and the country over the past week had had the most new infections of any country in the world.

Pazuello and Queiroga traveled to the headquarters of the Oswaldo Cruz Foundation (Fiocruz), which is linked to the Health Ministry, to take delivery of the first allotment of 500,000 vaccine doses from Latin America’s biggest health research center.

Fiocruz announced that this week it will deliver one million vaccine doses produced at its installations and that starting in April it will begin delivering six million doses per week until it has supplied 100 million doses by June or July.

“This moment is appropriate insofar as our capacity to combat the pandemic. It’s a tipping point,” said Pazuello emphasizing that, with local production finally established after initial delays, Brazil – which has inoculated 10 million people, or 4.8 percent of its population – will be able to accelerate the process and can get control of the spread of the pandemic in the second quarter.

“On Tuesday, we had a record number of deaths, which is very sad, but it’s something that’s … happening all over the world and, in addition, we have new (Covid) variants circulating, which cause a greater number” of deaths, he said.

Fiocruz is producing the vaccine developed by the AstraZeneca laboratory and Oxford University.

Meanwhile, the Butantan Institute, which is affiliated with the Sao Paulo state government, for several weeks has been producing the vaccine developed by China’s Sinovac lab.

“We already have 562 million doses of vaccine contracted for this year … We’ll immunize half the Brazilian population by June or July (2021) and the other have by the end of the year,” the general said.

In his own remarks, Queiroga said that he will provide continuity for the work carried out by Pazuello and that he will continue to follow the pre-agreed strategy for combating the pandemic, saying “A timetable for vaccine acquisition was already announced and, with these doses, we’re guaranteeing a broad immunization program.”

He went on to say that in a few weeks, Brazil will have total autonomy in vaccine production with the active ingredient in it being produced in Brazil.


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