Brazil has announced it will receive enough coronavirus vaccine ingredients from China to produce as many as 25 million doses of the AstraZeneca and Sinovac jabs, as the South American nation continues to struggle to vaccinate its population.
Rodrigo Cruz, executive secretary of the Brazilian Health Ministry, said the Fiocruz medical research institute would receive two lots of AstraZeneca jab ingredients on Saturday.
“The good news is that today I received confirmation that these two lots will be shipped on May 21. It’s enough to produce approximately 18 million doses,” Cruz told a congressional committee hearing on the COVID-19 crisis on Monday.
Meanwhile, Sao Paulo State Governor Joao Doria said the state’s Butantan biomedical institute would receive ingredients for seven million shots on May 26. “Good news!” Doria tweeted.
Fiocruz and Butantan need ingredients from China to produce the two most common COVID-19 vaccines being used in Brazil.
The country continues to be hard-hit by the pandemic, registering more than 435,000 deaths linked to the coronavirus – the second-highest tally after the United States – and more than 15.6 million infections.
Health workers and public health experts have warned that another surge in cases could be imminent in the country’s Amazonas region, where a more highly transmissible variant of the virus was first discovered.
“A third wave is a big concern. It may not be as explosive as the second but it could last longer,” Lucas Ferrante, a biologist and researcher at the National Institute for Research in the Amazon, told Al Jazeera earlier this month.
The health system in Manaus, the capital of Amazonas state, collapsed during a deadly second wave of the pandemic that led to widespread shortages of oxygen and other medical supplies needed to treat COVID-19 patients.
Brazil’s far-right President Jair Bolsonaro, who has eschewed public health measures such as lockdowns, has borne much of the blame for the coronavirus crisis.
A Senate committee is currently investigating the government’s handling of the pandemic.
Former Health Minister Luiz Henrique Mandetta, who was fired by the president last year, testified in early May that he had warned Bolsonaro about ignoring the advice of health experts on how best to respond to the virus.
“We expressly recommended the president change his stance. We told him it could cause the health system to collapse,” Mandetta told the committee. “I warned Bolsonaro systematically of the consequences of not adopting the recommendations of science to fight COVID-19.”
About 17 percent of people in Brazil have received at least one dose of the COVID-19 vaccine to date, while only 8 percent are considered fully vaccinated.