New Delhi: President Jair Bolsonaro, who earlier criticised and questioned China’s Sinovac vaccine, has opted to kick-start his country’s national inoculation plan with it even as Brasilia waits for New Delhi to give the green signal to a special flight that will carry 2 million vaccines made in India, ThePrint has learnt.
While Brazil was looking forward to the Covishield vaccine, manufactured by Serum Institute of India (SII), New Delhi chose to have it rolled out within India first and then have it exported to its neighbours for free as a goodwill gesture before sending shipments to Brazil and other countries under an export plan for commercial shipments.
When contacted, an SII official told ThePrint, “There is not much clarity on this. But overall the export to some countries are expected to start by month-end.”
The Bolsonaro government needed the 2 million doses “on an urgent basis” due to an internal political trouble brewing between the country’s Federal government and the São Paolo state, diplomatic sources told ThePrint.
According to the sources, Brazil’s government wanted to roll out its national vaccination plan before the state of São Paulo, which is the largest state and is being ruled by Governor Joao Doria, who belongs to the opposition Brazilian Social Democracy Party and is an arch-rival of the president.
Bolsonaro had even written to Prime Minister Narendra Modi stating the urgency of his request. However, as India delayed its response, the Brazilian president was “compelled” to clinch a deal with the São Paulo government, under which he will procure 6 million doses of Sinovac to vaccinate the country in the first phase of the vaccination programme, sources said.
The São Paulo government had made the deal with China last year and produced the Sinovac shots locally.
Earlier, Bolsonaro had repeatedly asserted he would not opt for the Chinese vaccine, saying Brazilians “won’t be anyone’s guinea pig”.
Sources said while Brazil is still looking forward to receiving the 2 million vaccines doses from India, for which it even entered a deal to procure them at a “special rate”, it is nevertheless “late” since the Bolsonaro government needed to score points over the opposition.
Brazil had finalised a deal with the SII earlier this month to obtain doses of the Oxford-AstraZeneca vaccine.
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Brazil’s national vaccine drive
Brazil’s National Health Surveillance Agency began rolling out the Chinese vaccine Monday. It will first vaccinate priority groups starting from the health workers, people above 60 years of age, the disabled people and the indigenous population.
“The first step is taken towards the beginning of the largest vaccination campaign in the world. This is our mission. Brazil is the reference of vaccination in the world, and it will continue to be,” Health Minister Eduardo Pazuello said in a tweet.
"Está dado o primeiro passo para o início da maior campanha de vacinação do mundo. Essa é a nossa missão. O Brasil é a referência de vacinação no mundo, e vai continuar sendo", ressaltou Pazuello.
— Ministério da Saúde (@minsaude) January 18, 2021
Meanwhile, sources said the special flight by Azul Brazilian Airlines, which was to arrive in India over the weekend to transport the vaccine, is still waiting to take off.
Official sources in the Indian government said Brazil will be getting the vaccines “soon” but it will have to “wait”.
India plans to now simultaneously export the vaccines to its neighbouring countries as well as Brazil, the sources said.
On Monday, India’s Ambassador to Brazil Suresh Reddy met President Bolsonaro, following which he said bilateral ties continued to grow stronger under the current administrations.
“It was a great pleasure meeting you Excellency! Our relations are growing stronger by the day under your and @narendramodi’s leadership!,” Reddy tweeted.
It was a great pleasure meeting you Excellency! Our relations are growing stronger by the day under your and @narendramodi's leadership! 🇮🇳🤝🇧🇷@PMOIndia @DrSJaishankar @harshvshringla @rivagdas https://t.co/fQt3swC1yG
— Suresh Reddy (@AmbSKReddy) January 18, 2021
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