Brasilia, Jun 29 (EFE).- Brazilian Health Minister Marcelo Queiroga announced Tuesday that the contract signed by Brasilia for the purchase of India’s Covaxin anti-Covid vaccine will be “suspended” until complaints of certain irregularities in the negotiations are clarified.
“It is not appropriate to import that vaccine at this time,” said the health minister alluding to Covaxin, manufactured by India’s Bharat Biotech, which is in the crosshairs of a Brazilian Senate committee investigating the Jair Bolsonaro government’s handling of the pandemic that has killed more than 515,000 Brazilians.
According to Queiroga, the execution of the contract has been suspended temporarily with an eye toward providing “greater transparency” in the contract negotiations and giving authorities time to review the contract, which sets forth the acquisition of 20 million doses for a total price of $320 million.
Also, the suspension will provide time for the National Health Monitoring Agency (Anvisa) to issue a pronouncement regarding the effectiveness of the drug, something that the regulatory body still has not done and which is required before importing it can be allowed.
The head of the General Comptroller’s Office, Wagner Rosario, also confirmed that his agency will conduct a “legal” review of all the conditions established in the contract, which have sparked doubts and even a request sent to the Supreme Court to investigate Bolsonaro himself in the matter.
Among various suspect elements in the case, during the negotiations it was agreed that a Singapore-based firm would receive part of the payment although that was not set forth in the contract itself.
In addition, during the talks a Brazilian businessman who is being investigated for corruption participated as an “intermediary” despite the fact that he is the owner of a firm that had already “sold” the government medications that were never delivered.
Regarding that transaction, the import chief for the Health Ministry, Ricardo Miranda, complained before the Senate committee that he was the target of “atypical pressure” to approve and accelerate the purchase of the vaccine, which he refused to do because of the irregularities in the contract.
The official is the brother of governing party lawmaker Luis Miranda, who confirmed last March, just days after the signing of the purchase agreement, that Bolsonaro had informed him personally about the matter.
According to the lawmaker, the president admitted that the matter was “serious,” but he said that it was “a yarn” told by lawmaker Ricardo Barros, the head of the governing caucus in the lower house and who now will have to testify before the Senate commission investigating the handling of the pandemic.
On Monday, before the complaint that Bolsonaro knew of something that could be a “serious case of corruption” and did not act upon it, a group of senators asked the Supreme Court to open an investigation into the president’s conduct and to clarify if Bolsonaro might have involved himself in lies or other crimes.