Brazil’s President Jair Bolsonaro has written to Prime Minister Narendra Modi, requesting an “urgent” supply of two million doses of the Oxford vaccine Covishield, for his country.
Covishield, developed by Oxford University and pharmaceutical giant AstraZeneca, is being manufactured in India by Serum Institute of India (SII) and recently got the drug regulator’s nod for emergency use. The government recently hinted that it may allow SII and Bharat Biotech to export their respective vaccines, but only after the first phase of the domestic vaccination programme is over.
“I would appreciate being able to count on Your Excellency’s good offices to anticipate the supply to Brazil, with the possible urgency and without jeopardizing the Indian vaccination programme, of 2 million doses of the immuniser produced by the Serum Institute of India,” Bolsonaro wrote.
In the letter, Bolsonaro said the Brazilian government has flagged off the national immunization programme against COVID-19 and has shortlisted the Indian vaccines – Covishield and Covaxin (Bharat Biotech’s) – for the same.
According to reports, the Brazilian government plans to acquire Covishield by two ways – by approaching the government and directly placing an order with the concerned company.
A release from the Brazilian Foreign Ministry also said that the Brazilian embassy in New Delhi is in constant touch with Indian authorities on the vaccination requisition by Brazil.
The Brazilian President’s requisition comes at a time when the country has clocked in over 8 million COVID-19 cases and has the second-highest death toll (200,000 deaths) after the US.
Head of Brazilian Association of Vaccine Clinics Geraldo Barbosa, who along with his team will leave for India on Monday, said the country has already signed a MoU with Bharat Biotech for the procurement of Covaxin.
“This should be the first vaccine available on the private market in Brazil,” he said.
Brazil expects Covaxin to arrive in the country by mid-March and would be sold by private clinics after being approved by the drug regulator.
The private clinics in Brazil had reportedly signed deals with Bharat Biotech for an alternate vaccine, even though the company is yet to publish the results of the Phase 3 trials of the vaccine.
It was earlier reported that Brazil’s Fiocruz Institute would be able to bulk import only 1 million doses of Covishield by the second week of February.
Although the country had conducted the Phase 3 trials of the Oxford vaccine and China’s Coronavac (Sinovac Biotech), the same had to be stopped halfway through due to adverse reaction in some volunteers.