Bolsonaro, the Brazilian medical institute refused to sell vaccines abroad

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By Eduardo Simões

September 29 (Reuters) – Brazil’s Butantan Biomedical Institute is in talks to sell a COVID-19 vaccine made locally and developed by Chinese company Sinovac to other countries in South America and Africa because the government federal government has not ordered more vaccines.

Butantan director Dimas Covas said on Wednesday that the institute also had contracts to deliver the vaccine directly to Brazilian states.

Butantan is currently producing the shot developed by Sinovac Biotech Ltd in the state of Sao Paulo using inputs imported from China, but it aims to complete a factory for 100% local production by early next year.

Earlier this month, Butantan closed its contract to deliver 100 million doses of the vaccine, known as CoronaVac, to the Brazilian health ministry, with no other deal in place.

President Jair Bolsonaro has expressed skepticism about what he calls the “Chinese vaccine”, taunting Sao Paulo governor Joao Doria, a political rival, for data showing the vaccine is less effective than others at preventing symptoms of COVID-19.

CoronaVac was the first vaccine available in Brazil in January, when Butantan and the Sao Paulo state government offered to provide the vaccines to the Bolsonaro administration.

The federal government took longer to obtain alternative vaccines in substantial volumes, facing criticism for a slow and uneven vaccination rollout as the death toll skyrocketed.

Brazil has recorded nearly 600,000 deaths from COVID-19 in the world’s deadliest outbreak outside the United States.

The Department of Health is now also receiving large shipments of vaccines from Pfizer Inc and Johnson & Johnson, with the government saying it will prioritize the use of Pfizer booster shots. (Reporting by Eduardo Simoes Writing by Jake Spring Editing by Brad Haynes and Aurora Ellis)

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