BRASILIA—Brazil’s President Jair Bolsonaro and a high-ranking health official said on Wednesday the government will not buy a COVID-19 vaccine from China‘s Sinovac, one day after the health minister said it would be included in the nation’s immunization program.
“For sure, we will not buy the Chinese vaccine,” Bolsonaro said on social media, responding to a supporter who urged him not to buy the vaccine. The president said the issue would be clarified later in the day.
On Tuesday, Health Minister Eduardo Pazuello had said in a meeting with state governors that the ministry would buy the vaccine developed by Sinovac to include it in the immunization program, in addition to one developed by the UK-based AstraZeneca and Oxford University.
But Bolsonaro said on Wednesday Pazuello had been misinterpreted during the meeting with Brazil’s governors.
Later in the morning, health ministry official Elcio Franco said all vaccines would be forced to go through federal health approval channels, but that the government had no interest in “Chinese vaccines.”
Brazil has been among the world’s hardest-hit nations by the pandemic, with more than 5 million infections and nearly 155,000 COVID-19 deaths, according to a Reuters tally.
The Health Ministry on Wednesday announced that Pazuello has tested positive for the virus, making him the latest Brazilian official, including Bolsonaro, to do so.
Sao Paulo state biomedical research center, the Butantan Institute, was testing the Sinovac vaccine, and Gov. João Doria said he hopes to have health regulator approval by the end of the year to start vaccinating people in January.
The Brazilian government already has plans to purchase the AstraZeneca vaccine and produce it at its biomedical research center FioCruz in Rio de Janeiro.
Inclusion of the Sinovac vaccine, called CoronaVac, in the national vaccination program of a country with 230 million people would have been a major success for the Chinese pharmaceutical company, in what could be one of the first immunization efforts against the coronavirus in the world.