Editor in Chief: Moh. Reza Huwaida Thursday, January 21st, 2021

Brazil scrambles to approve virus vaccine as pressure mounts

Brazil scrambles to approve virus vaccine as pressure mounts

RIO DE JANEIRO- Brazil, a nation proud of its role as a regional leader in science, technology and medicine, finds itself falling behind its neighbors in the global race for immunization against a pandemic that has already killed nearly 200,000 of its people.
Latin America’s largest nation, long heralded for its domestic vaccine development programs, appears to be at least three or four weeks away from launching any formal immunization campaign against COVID-19. In contrast, Argentina, Chile, Mexico, Costa Rica and other countries in the region have already begun giving shots to their populations.
The Brazilian government has not approved a single vaccine and has stumbled in attempts to acquire even syringes and needles for an immunization effort that, as of the new year, still had no definite rollout date.
Meanwhile, the number of new coronavirus infections in the country reached a new high in December — peaking with more than 70,000 cases on Dec. 16.
The lightning rod in Brazil’s vaccine debate is President Jair Bolsonaro, who has cast skepticism on all of the vaccines being developed even as his government negotiates to obtain them. He has said he doesn’t plan to get a shot himself and joked at one point that side effects might turn people into crocodiles or bearded ladies.
Such talk has left Brazil’s image abroad “very damaged,” Margareth Dalcolmo, a professor in respiratory medicine at the state-funded Oswaldo Cruz Foundation, also known as Fiocruz, told The Associated Press.
“No one is saying that Bolsonaro really believes this, but he is discrediting the vaccine,” said Walter Cintra, a professor in health management at the Getulio Vargas Foundation university in Sao Paulo. “When the government behaves like this, it loses credibility. And these are million-dollar contracts.”
One of the earliest vaccines on the horizon appears to be one developed by China’s Sinovac company, which has contracted with the government of Brazil’s largest state, Sao Paulo, for distribution and production.
Sao Paulo Gov. João Doria announced plans to start distributing shots on Jan. 25 if federal health authorities approve the vaccine. Doria is a vocal critic and likely challenger in the 2022 presidential election, and his announcement added pressure on the Bolsonaro administration to come up with its own federal immunization plan.
The president initially sneered at the Chinese vaccine, saying its origins don’t inspire trust, but other states quickly showed interest in acquiring some. (AP)