Brazilian regulator Anvisa has given the green light to vaccines from Oxford-AstraZeneca and China’s Sinovac, doses of which will soon be distributed among all 27 states, according to the authorities.
This comes as a relief to many Brazilians who’ve been waiting anxiously for news about when vaccinations would start as neighbouring countries have already begun their vaccine programmes.
The capital Brasília has been slow to act despite the severity of Brazil’s epidemic, and the world’s second highest death toll.
Shortly after Anvisa’s board gave emergency approval, Monica Calazans, a 54-year-old nurse in Sao Paulo, became the first person to be inoculated with CoronaVac, developed by Sinovac.
The pandemic has become deeply political in Brazil.
President Jair Bolsonaro, who has played down the pandemic from the beginning, has come under renewed fire in recent months as the country continues to be mauled by its devastating second wave.
Bolsonaro has refused to be proactive in coming up with a clear inoculation plan and continues to spread unfounded doubts about vaccines. He has faced mounting criticism for his handling of Brazil’s outbreak, and several anti-government protests were held last week.
All the while hospitals are coming under increasing pressure with cities like Manaus seeing a collapse of their health systems as the number of infected people continues to soar.
Earlier this week researchers said the Chinese vaccine, which is also being used in China, Indonesia and Turkey, had been found to be 50.4% effective in Brazilian clinical trials. This is significantly less effective than previous data suggested – barely over the 50% needed for regulatory approval.
Recently, a new coronavirus variant has emerged in Brazil. Several cases were traced back to the country’s Amazonas region, where a state of emergency is in place.
Manaus, the region’s capital city, has been hit especially hard, with beds and life-saving oxygen running low. Refrigerated containers have also been brought to hospitals to help store bodies.