Brazil begins tests of Chinese-made Covid-19 vaccine

Sao Paulo, Jul 21 (efe-epa).- Doses of a potential Covid-19 vaccine developed by China’s Sinovac Biotech were administered Tuesday to volunteer doctors and nurses here in Brazil’s largest city.

“Today is a historic day,” Sao Paulo state Gov. Joao Doria told a press conference after witnessing the injection of the CoronaVac formula into a female physician who works at the University of Sao Paulo medical school’s clinical hospital.

“During the next three months the volunteers will be accompanied by a scientific team, with accompaniment even by international supervisors due to the fact that this is one of the most advanced vaccines in the world, having already passed through Phases 1 and 2 (of the testing process) with great success,” he said.

Phase 3, overseen by Instituto Butantan, a world-renowned epidemiological center affiliated with the Sao Paulo state health department, currently involves 980 staff members from the clinical hospital, but the plan calls for the trial to be extended to roughly 9,000 health-care professionals nationwide.

Half of the volunteers will receive a placebo and none of the participants will know which formula he or she is getting.

The Sao Paulo state government says that if the vaccine proves safe and effective, Instituto Butantan could begin producing CoronaVac in Brazil as early as the start of 2021.

Brazil has more than 80,000 coronavirus fatalities and 2.1 million confirmed cases. Only the United States is experiencing a bigger impact from the pandemic.

In announcing the accord with Sinovac last month, Doria said that once it is certified by the relevant authorities, the vaccine would be provided free in Sao Paulo through the state health system.

Dr. Dimas Covas, who leads the institute, said Tuesday that Sao Paulo state “is showing Brazil and the world how it is necessary to proceed” in a nation as large and “heterogeneous” as the South American giant.

“The vaccine puts us in a very propitious position to make Brazil one of the first countries to use this vaccine on a mass basis,” he said, while the head of infectious diseases and parasitology at USP medical school called the start of the clinical trial a “fundamental step in confronting Covid-19.”

“Besides being the principal center of care for serious (Covid-19) cases in the country,” professor Esper Kallas said, “now our professionals can also assist with the clinical tests of the vaccine.”

The shipment of 20,000 doses of CoronaVac arrived late Monday at Sao Paulo’s Guarulhos International Airport aboard a flight from Frankfurt, Germany.

In late June, the Brazilian federal government signed an agreement with UK-based drugmaker AstraZeneca and Oxford University to obtain an experimental vaccine that has shown encouraging results in initial clinical trials.

For $127 million, Brazil received 30.4 million doses and the technical know-how to produce the vaccine domestically. If the medication meets licensing requirements, Brasilia will invest an additional $161 million for the ingredients to produce another 100 million doses domestically at a per-unit cost of $2.30. EFE csr/dr

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