The Brazilian Government of President Jair Bolsonaro Tuesday signed a contract with AstraZeneca for the local manufacture of that laboratory's vaccine against covid-19.
Bolsonaro was even hopeful the immunizer, developed together with the University of Oxford, maybe exported in the future, although he did not specify where to, particularly taking into account that Argentina and Mexico already co-produce the same vaccine locally and aim to supply the region in addition to their respective domestic markets.
The Brazilian agreement will allow the Oswaldo Cruz Foundation (Fiocruz), a leading medical research centre in Brazil, to have full access to the drug's production method and to be able to manufacture the so-called IFA, the vaccine's key ingredient. Until now, Fiocruz produced the AstraZeneca vaccine but imported the IFA from other countries, especially China, within the framework of an agreement reached last year between the Government of Brazil and the Anglo-Swedish laboratory.
Health Minister Marcelo Queiroga pointed out that it is a crucial and strategic step in the fight against the pandemic that will serve to advance self-sufficiency and productive sovereignty of the AstraZeneca drug. According to official data of a population of 212 million Brazilians, only 22 million have received the two necessary doses, while another 45.2 million have received only the first.
Also according to the Government, around 30% of the vaccines applied in the country are those developed by AstraZeneca, while 65% are from the Chinese firm Sinovac, packaged locally by the Butantan Institute of Sao Paulo, and the rest from the pharmaceutical company Pfizer.
With 465,000 deaths and 16.6 million infected, Brazil is the Latin American country most affected by the coronavirus and one of the most affected in the world, along with the United States and India. In the last 24 hours, the country has reported 2,408 covid-19 related deaths and about 80,000 new cases, less than two weeks before the Copa América football match, which the Bolsonaro government decided to host following the decision by the South American Football Confederation (Conmebol) regarding the unfeasibility of having it played in both Colombia and Argentina as originally planned.
Bolsonaro himself ratified Tuesday that the Copa America will be held in Brazil, starting next Sunday, June 13. Brasilia, Rio de Janeiro, Mato Grosso and Goiás have been confirmed to host matches, while Florianópolis could join in the next few hours.
We are in a position to hold the Copa América with the same protocols that are used for international club matches, Bolsonaro explained.
The key to choosing these cities is that Conmebol needs to have absolute availability of stadiums, and since the Brasileirao local First Division started just last weekend, other stadiums were not fully available.
All my ministers, including Health, agree that the tournament is played, Bolsonaro said despite strong domestic opposition. ”I spoke with the CBF (Brazilian Football Confederation) and all the ministers about the Copa América. The Libertadores, the South American, the World Cup qualifying rounds are being played, we have a game against Ecuador on Friday. Nobody says anything, nor do they have any problems with all those matches that are already being played, why do they want to condemn the holding of Copa America?” he asked.
On Monday morning, Conmebol announced that Brazil was going to host the tournament. But one issue remains to be clear: All the visiting delegations of up to 65 members each need to be vaccinated, and there is not enough time for the immunizers to develop the necessary antibodies prior to their arrival in Brazil. It remains to be seen how teams and players would react to such a compulsory requirement which does not apply to South American club competitions.