Sao Paulo, Jan 26 (efe-epa).- The Covid-19 pandemic continues to rage out of control in Brazil, whose president said Tuesday that he had authorized private firms to buy the Oxford University/AstraZeneca vaccine to immunize their employees provided the companies donate half of the doses to the public vaccination campaign.
“I want to make it very clear that the federal government is in favor of this group … bringing the vaccine here to immunize 33 million people, at zero cost for the federal government,” Jair Bolsonaro said during a virtual event hosted by Swiss investment bank Credit Suisse.
The right-wing president’s embrace of the idea, which came from a group of Brazilian business leaders, contradicts what was the official stance of his administration as recently as two weeks ago, when several government ministries said they did not need help from the private sector to carry out vaccination.
Not long after Bolsonaro’s comments, AstraZeneca PLC said that “at this moment,” it is only supplying vaccine to governments and multilateral organizations.
“It is not possible to make vaccines available to the private sector,” the British-based pharmaceutical giant said in a statement, recalling that it has already committed to providing 100 million doses to the South American nation under an agreement with the Brazilian government.
Eleven months after coronavirus was first detected in Brazil, the country is currently struggling to cope with a second wave of infections that has brought the average daily death toll to more than 1,000, levels last experienced at the peak of the first wave in August.
With nearly 218,000 fatalities, Brazil, a nation of 212 million people, is second only to the United States in the number of lives lost to Covid-19 and No. 3 worldwide in cases behind the US and India, which has more than 1 billion inhabitants.
The model developed by Imperial College London shows that the pace of contagion continues to accelerate in Brazil, which launched its national immunization effort later than neighboring countries and is now dealing with supply constraints.
So far, Brazil has been able to obtain only 12 million doses.
Two million doses of the Oxford/AstraZeneca drug arrived from India, while China’s Sinovac Biotech has provided 10 million doses of its CoronaVac vaccine.
Bolsonaro, a Covid-19 survivor who has cast doubt on the effectiveness of vaccines, vows that Brazil will soon be among the world leaders in vaccination.
Caravans of motor vehicles and bicycles were organized in dozens of Brazilian cities last Saturday to press a demand for Bolsonaro’s impeachment over his handling of the pandemic.
The president continues to criticize social distancing and mask-wearing amid continuing clashes with state and local officials across the Brazil who take the health crisis more seriously.
Joao Doria, the conservative governor of Sao Paulo state, has emerged as Bolsonaro’s chief antagonist.
On Tuesday, Doria sought to remind Brazilians that it was not his administration – not the federal government – that made a deal with Sinovac for the vaccine and for raw materials to produce more doses in Brazil.
“We have the vaccine, despite all of the federal government’s contrary manifestations and the snubs of the president and his sons in relation to China,” the governor told a press conference.
Like his political role model, former US President Donald Trump, Bolsonaro is often critical of China, as are his sons, themselves politicians.
“Up to the present moment we have not received a cent from the Health Ministry. All of the investment was made by the Sao Paulo government and the Instituto Butantan,” Doria said, referring to the state-owned biologic research center that is also Latin America’s largest producer of vaccines.
Sao Paulo is Brazil’s most populous state and the country’s industrial heartland.
Butantan director Dimas Covas said Tuesday that Brazil will receive next week a shipment of ingredients from China sufficient to make 8.6 million doses of CoronaVac.