Brasilia, Dec 16 (efe-epa).- Brazil’s government on Wednesday outlined its future five-phase plan to vaccinate its entire population of 210 million people against Covid-19, although it did not indicate when the process will begin.
A fixed date for the start of the first inoculation stage cannot be established until federal health regulator Anvisa approves and registers a vaccine, according to the federal Health Ministry, which said that authorization could be granted by February.
In the event Anvisa authorizes a vaccine for emergency use before the entire registration process has been completed, people who decide to receive the injection will have to sign a document stating that they assume the potential risks, the ministry added.
Brazil has been one of the countries hardest hit by the pandemic, having registered more than 7 million confirmed coronavirus cases (third most worldwide after the United States and India) and over 183,000 deaths attributed to Covid-19 (second after the US).
Still reeling from the first onslaught, the nation now appears to be facing a second wave of the potentially fatal respiratory disease.
Rightist President Jair Bolsonaro, who has consistently downplayed the seriousness of the coronavirus and also has been skeptical about the need for a vaccine, attended the event and acknowledged on this occasion that the health crisis has affected everyone for months.
“We’ve gone through difficult moments (but) the reward always comes after the storm,” said Bolsonaro, a coronavirus survivor who on Tuesday indicated that he does not intend to get inoculated.
“If any of us exaggerated, it was out of a desire to seek a solution,” Bolsonaro, who famously dismissed Covid-19 earlier this year as a “measly flu,” said in striking a much more moderate and almost apologetic tone on Wednesday.
Brazil’s health minister, Gen. Eduardo Pazuello, said the vaccination campaign could begin in as little as five days, once Anvisa gives its approval to one or more vaccines.
But he said that will depend on the presentation of the data by laboratories and the availability of the vaccines.
Pazuello said Brazil is in talks with different laboratories to purchase some 300 million vaccine shots, although he acknowledged that none of those doses has arrived to date.
Those negotiations are being conducted with Pfizer-BioNTech, whose vaccine is already in use in some countries, including the United States; AstraZeneca-Oxford; Sinovac Biotech; Moderna; Janssen; and Bharat Biotech.
“All of them could be acquired for the free, non-mandatory vaccination plan the government will carry out in coordination with regional and municipal administrations,” Pazuello said.
That includes the CoronaVac, developed by Chinese laboratory Sinovac Biotech in conjunction with Sao Paulo state’s Instituto Butantan biomedical center.
Sao Paulo’s governor, Joao Doria, a political rival of Bolsonaro’s, early last week announced plans for a large-scale inoculation campaign using the CoronaVac, pending Anvisa’s approval.
But Bolsonaro, who has frequently expressed mistrust of China, has referred to Sinovac’s product with contempt and said his government will not buy it.
Pazuello also reiterated Wednesday that Brazil’s government will allocate 20 billion reais (around $4 billion) for the purchase of vaccines and confirmed that it is in the process of acquiring 300 million needles, syringes and other materials to support the vaccination campaign.
According to the program outlined at the event, the vaccines are to be delivered in four phases, the first of which will inoculate health workers, people over the age of 75, nursing home residents aged 60 and older and the indigenous population.
The rest of the population between the ages of 60 and 74 will be vaccinated during the second phase, while people with one or more comorbidities will be inoculated in the third phase.
In the fourth phase, vaccines will be administered to teachers, law enforcement personnel and prison employees.