India’s Bharat Biotech denies irregularities in vaccine sale to Brazil

New Delhi, Jun 30 (EFE).- Indian company Bharat Biotech, manufacturer of the anti-Covid vaccine Covaxin, on Wednesday denied irregularities in negotiating the agreement to sell 20 million doses of the antidote to the government of Brazil, which has been suspended following a scandal.

The lab said in a statement that the procurement of the vaccine by Brazilian President Jair Bolsonaro’s government followed “a step by step approach towards contracts and regulatory approvals” in a process that lasted eight months. 

“As of 29th June 2021, Bharat Biotech has not received any advance payments nor supplied any vaccines to MOH (ministry of health) Brazil. Bharat Biotech has followed a similar approach towards contracts, regulatory approvals and supplies in several countries worldwide,” it added.

The clarification comes after an outcry over the Bolsonaro government’s procurement of the vaccines, which was suspended by the Brazilian health minister on Tuesday after a probe was launched.

Last week the import chief for the Brazilian health ministry, Ricardo Miranda, complained before a 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 General Comptroller’s Office has also confirmed that it will conduct a “legal” review of all the conditions established in the contract, which have sparked doubts and even a request 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.

In its statement, Bharat Biotech did not directly refer to the legal terms of the contract, but said that the per dose price of the vaccine had been fixed at $15 during negotiations.

Covaxin, which is being sold to the Indian government at $6, is nevertheless the most expensive antidote available to non-government entities in India at $15, nearly double compared to a dose of AstraZeneca’s locally produced vaccine Covishield and Russia’s Sputnik V.

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