Rebuffed by Bolsonaro, Brazil medical institute to sell vaccines abroad

Brazil's President Jair Bolsonaro wears a protective mask during a ceremony at the Planalto Palace in Brasilia, Brazil

Brazil’s Butantan biomedical institute is in talks to sell a locally manufactured COVID-19 vaccine developed by China’s Sinovac to other countries in South America and Africa, as the federal government has not ordered more of the shots.

Butantan Director Dimas Covas said on Wednesday that the institute also has contracts to supply the vaccine directly to Brazilian states.

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

Earlier this month, Butantan completed its contract to deliver 100 million doses the vaccine, known as CoronaVac, to Brazil’s Health Ministry, without another deal in place.

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

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

The federal government took longer to secure alternative vaccines in substantial volumes, facing criticisms for a slow and patchy immunization rollout as the death toll soared.

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

The Health Ministry is now also receiving large shipments of vaccines from Pfizer Inc (PFE.N) and Johnson & Johnson (JNJ.N), with the government saying it will prioritize using Pfizer booster shots.

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