Brazil places $127 mn bet on promising Covid-19 vaccine

Rio de Janeiro, Jun 27 (efe-epa).- Brazil, which is second only to the United States in coronavirus cases and deaths, announced Saturday a $127 million agreement with UK-based drugmaker AstraZeneca and Oxford University to obtain an experimental vaccine that has shown encouraging results in initial clinical trials.

For the $127 million, Latin America’s largest nation will receive 30.4 million doses and the technical know-how to produce the vaccine domestically, the Brazilian Health Ministry said If the medication proves safe and effective enough to meet licensing requirements, Brazil will invest an additional $161 million for the ingredients to produce another 100 million doses domestically at a per-unit cost of $2.30.

Rio de Janeiro-based Fundação Osvaldo Cruz (Fiocruz), Brazil’s foremost public health institution, will handle the production.

The No. 2 official in the Health Ministry, Elcio Franco, acknowledged that the venture represented a gamble for Brazil, which is averaging 1,000 fatalities a day from the coronavirus.

“The research risk we’re taking is necessary given the urgency of an effective solution to maintain public health and resume economic growth,” he said at a press conference in Brasilia.

AstraZeneca’s drug is currently the leading candidate to win official approval as a vaccine against Covid-19, according to the World Health Organization.

The pact also includes a provision that would enable Brazil to supply the vaccine to neighboring countries, Fiocruz president Nisia Trindade Lima said in a subsequent statement.

“In the case that the vaccine proves effective … the accord permits us to assume responsibility for provision of the vaccine in Latin America,” she said.

Fiocruz has the capacity to produce up to 40 million doses a month of the AstraZeneca formula without reducing the output of the many other vaccines it provides, Lima said.

Covid-19 has claimed 56,197 lives in Brazil and the number of confirmed cases exceeds 1.28 million.

Though the pandemic shows no sign of subsiding, most of Brazil’s 27 states continue to move forward with a gradual lifting of the restrictions they imposed to contain the spread of the disease over the loud, persistent objections of right-wing President Jair Bolsonaro, who has dismissed coronavirus as a “measly flu.” EFE cm/dr

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