Sao Paulo, Dec 3 (efe-epa).- Inputs needed to manufacture 1 million doses of a candidate vaccine developed by Chinese laboratory Sinovac Biotech Ltd. arrived Thursday in the Brazilian state of Sao Paulo, which expects to start immunizing the population in January.
This latest 600-liter (158-gallon) delivery is in addition to the 120,000 ready doses received by that southeastern state two weeks ago.
Under an agreement with Sinovac, a total of 46 million doses of the CoronaVac vaccine eventually will be imported by Sao Paulo’s government to inoculate the entire population of that region, Brazil’s hardest-hit in absolute terms by the pandemic.
The remaining doses are expected to arrive over the next two weeks.
The latest shipment of the CoronaVac, whose production and application will be coordinated by Sao Paulo’s Instituto Butantan biomedical center, arrived Thursday morning at Guarulhos International Airport (which serves Sao Paulo city) on a flight that arrived from Beijing via Zurich, Switzerland.
Before Butantan’s manufacturing process begins, the CoronaVac inputs will undergo testing to evaluate and validate the product’s quality and the production process.
But the Chinese vaccine’s effectiveness still must be verified before it is made available to the Brazilian population, a milestone that should be reached after the conclusion of the third phase of clinical trials, whose results are due to be announced before Dec. 15.
Finally, the vaccine must receive the green light from Brazilian health vigilance agency Anvisa.
In that regard, Sao Paulo state Gov. Joao Doria said in a press conference Thursday that his administration is “rigorously” adhering to the vaccine development timetable and that the immunization program will kick off in January.
“Rigorously abiding by the law, complying with the protocols with Anvisa and obeying the principle of protecting life, we’re going to start immunizing Brazilians in Sao Paulo in January,” he said.
A former ally turned critic of Brazilian President Jair Bolsonaro, Doria also slammed the national government’s preliminary immunization program that was rolled out this week. Under that program, nationwide vaccinations are not scheduled to begin until March of next year.
Bolsonaro has expressed contempt for Sinovac’s product, saying his government will not buy it and even celebrating Brazilian regulators’ decision in early November to temporarily halt clinical trials of the CoronaVac following the death of a volunteer for reasons unrelated to any effect of that vaccine.
Bolsonaro, who sees Doria as a threat to his hopes of winning a second term in 2022, has signed a pact with AstraZeneca to obtain 100 million doses of the vaccine that United Kingdom-based pharmaceutical giant is developing in partnership with the University of Oxford, which is likewise in clinical trials in Brazil.
The rightist head of state has frequently expressed mistrust of China even though the Asian giant is Brazil’s largest trade partner.
The 65-year-old president and Doria, 62, are both coronavirus survivors, but they have been at odds over how to deal with the public health crisis since Brazil’s first Covid-19 case was detected nine months ago in Sao Paulo city, the state capital.
While Doria implemented fairly stringent measures to slow the spread of the virus, Bolsonaro, who famously dismissed Covid-19 as “a measly flu,” slammed those measures as ruinous for the economy and remains cavalier about a disease that has claimed nearly 175,000 lives in Brazil.
The South American country is second only to the United States in coronavirus deaths.
“That indifference, that detachment, that lack of compassion with the lives of Brazilians is surprising,” said Doria, who questioned whether members of Bolsonaro’s administration are aware that “more than 500 Brazilians are dying every day from Covid-19.”
Bolsonaro also has been criticized by Sao Paulo’s governor for saying that people should not be required to be immunized against Covid-19 once an effective vaccine emerges.
Amid the political disputes surrounding the CoronaVac, Doria reiterated that he expects the national Health Ministry will exercise good judgment and sign an agreement for the vaccine produced by Butantan – a world-renowned epidemiological center affiliated with the Sao Paulo state health department – so it also can be distributed and used in other Brazilian states.