Brazil became this Thursday, November 19, 2020, the first Latin American country to receive a batch of vaccines against covid-19, a disease that has revived alerts in the South American giant after the acceleration of the virus in recent years weeks.
The first 120,000 doses of the antigen, which are still in the final phase of testing, arrived in Sao Paulo today, after the regional government reached an agreement with Chinese laboratory Sinovac to import part vaccines and for the transfer of technology for its development by the Butantan Institute.
The experiment has already started to be tested on 13,000 volunteers in the state of Sao Paulo, the region with the most cases and deaths from coronavirus in all of Brazil, and according to the first results, the vaccine has the capacity to produce an immune response in the body for 28 days after its application in 97% of cases.
The clinical trials of the so-called Coronavac are in the final stages and, once completed, must be submitted for evaluation by health authorities for registration and subsequent use in vaccination campaigns against the coronavirus, which the authorities in Sao Paulo think they can happen early next year.
“In the next 40 days, we will have 46 million doses – equivalent to the entire population of this region – of this vaccine”, celebrated the governor of the state of Sao Paulo, Joao Doria, main promoter of Coronavac in Brazil.
In addition to the acquisition of Sinovac by Sao Paulo, the Ministry of Health has signed an agreement with the company AstraZeneca and the University of Oxford, through which it has enabled the country to test the vaccine they are developing, of which it has already acquired 100 million doses in advance but have not yet reached the country.
In Brazil, the formulas developed by the multinational Johnson & Johnson and the BioNTech (Germany) and Wyeth / Pfizer (United States) consortium are also being tested.
‘Coronavac’, center of political conflicts
Even before the vaccination began, the Sinovac laboratory antidote had already become the center of a political dispute between the president of Brazil, Jair Bolsonaro, the head of a far-right denialist, and Doria.
Former allies and current rivals aspiring to the presidential elections of 2022, Bolsonaro and Doria are the most visible and antagonistic faces of the pandemic in Brazil, where covid-19 already kills an estimated 168,000 and an estimated 6 million infections.
The differences between the leaders on the management of the health crisis were accentuated with the expectations concerning the arrival of the antigen and the disdain of Bolsonaro towards Coronavac, which he came to reject as the “Doria vaccine” and about the who warned that “he will not be bought” by his government.
The rope between the two leaders was tightened even further last week, when Bolsonaro celebrated the momentary cessation of clinical trials after the death of a volunteer for reasons unrelated to the vaccine.
The suspension decision was received with indignation by the Butantan Institute and, after a severe crossing of accusations, the National Health Surveillance Agency (Anvisa, regulator) authorized to resume the tests and release the importation of six million doses, the first batch of which arrived this Thursday.
“This is a crucial moment in the life of the country. We cannot waste time with bureaucracy or unnecessary discussions of a political or ideological nature,” Doria stressed today at a press conference.
The pandemic is accelerating in Brazil
Without having yet left out the first wave of the pandemic, Brazil has started to record an upward trend in the number of cases and deaths after the slight decline in recent months.
“The downward trend has ceased to exist. It has stabilized and now it is rising. It’s like the plane that was going to land and attack,” explained infectious disease specialist Paulo Andrade Lotufo.
The “upsurge” of the pandemic, which coincides with the growing return to normality in Brazil, has increased hospital pressure in various regions of the country, including Sao Paulo.
The state health authorities explain today that the occupation of intensive care units (ICU) is at 43%, against 20% a few weeks ago but below the 95% recorded at the height of the pandemic, between the months April and May.
As a preventive measure, it has been decreed that all non-elective surgeries in São Paulo hospitals be canceled and that all beds dedicated to the treatment of the coronavirus be maintained.
In the municipality of Sao Paulo, the most populous in Brazil with 12 million inhabitants, the occupation is the highest since August, but the mayor, Bruno Covas, who is seeking reelection in the second round of municipal elections on November 29 , insisted today, the situation remains “stable”.
Despite the increase in staff numbers, both regional and municipal authorities have ruled out toughening social distancing measures, which began to be relaxed last June and allowed the reopening of bars, restaurants and shops.