Brazil has launched a national COVID-19 vaccination program by distributing doses of a Sinovac Biotech vaccine in China following an emergency use authorization, although the pace of vaccination will depend on the delay in imports.
After weeks of setbacks, many Brazilians applauded the first wave of vaccinations, from Sao Paulo to Rio de Janeiro, the country’s hardest-hit state.
The Department of Health gave states the green light to begin vaccination at 5 p.m. (8 p.m. GMT) on Monday, although some officials were quick to start vaccinations.
A few minutes after the federal health agency Anvisa approved Sinovac vaccine Sunday, Monica Calazans, a 54-year-old nurse in Sao Paulo, became the first person to be vaccinated in the country, as Sao Paulo governor Joao Doria looked on.
“After hearing the governors, we came to the conclusion that today we will distribute the vaccines to the states,” and they “can start vaccinating” immediately, Health Minister Eduardo Pazuello said on Monday.
He made the announcement after meeting with state leaders at Guarulhos Airport in Sao Paulo, from where 4.5 million doses of China’s CoronaVac vaccine will be sent nationwide.
Health workers, people over 75, residents of nursing homes and indigenous populations will be the first to be vaccinated. The CoronaVac and the Covishield require two doses.
Northern Amazonas State, which was fight against record deaths and burials as hospitals run out of beds and vital oxygen, is expected to receive its first batch of vaccine on Monday evening and will begin vaccinating people on Tuesday morning, the government said.
Pazuello initially said the government would start distributing vaccines to the 27 states on Monday for a nationwide vaccination campaign to begin on Wednesday.
While many countries have already launched vaccination campaigns, including some among its neighbors, Brazil, with its population of around 213 million, is lagging behind.
CoronaVac has been embroiled in a political stalemate between far-right President Jair Bolsonaro, who has repeatedly tried to discredit him, and Doria, an advocate.
Bolsonaro, a COVID-19 skeptic who refused to be vaccinated himself, had faced strong criticism for Brazil’s lack of vaccination.
The country has lost nearly 210,000 lives to COVID-19 – the worst toll of the pandemic outside the United States.
Waiting for active ingredients
On Sunday, Anvisa approved the emergency use of the Sinovac vaccine and that of AstraZeneca Plc, although a rushed plan to secure two million doses of the AstraZeneca vaccine was hampered by a lack of export clearance from the ‘India.
It was one of many hurdles that threatened to slow Brazil’s already overdue vaccination efforts, as local manufacturing partners of the two vaccine makers wait for active ingredients from abroad to fill and complete distribution doses. .
The state-run Butantan Institute of Sao Paulo needs another shipment of Sinovac ingredients by the end of the month in order to reach its target of 46 million doses by April, the head of the institute at a press conference.
The federally funded Fiocruz biomedical center in Rio de Janeiro is still awaiting its first delivery of ingredients for AstraZeneca’s vaccine, pending approval for Chinese exports.
Sao Paulo already has six million doses of the CoronaVac vaccine, which a Brazilian trial had found to be 50% effective in preventing coronavirus infection, and the health ministry announced this month that it had signed an agreement with the Butantan Institute to produce 100 million more.
Last week, Bolsonaro announced that a commercial plane would be sent to India to collect two million doses of Covishield, produced there by the Serum Institute.