Brazil drug agency questions 'transparency' of China coronavirus vaccine

CoronaVac has been the target of attempts to discredit it by Brazil's far-right President Jair Bolsonaro.
CoronaVac has been the target of attempts to discredit it by Brazil's far-right President Jair Bolsonaro.PHOTO: REUTERS

BRASILIA (AFP, REUTERS) - The Brazilian health regulator Anvisa on Monday (Dec 14) accused China of using criteria that "are not transparent" to win emergency approval of its coronavirus vaccine CoronaVac, which is in the final phase of trials in Brazil.

"The Chinese criteria applied to grant the authorisation of emergency use in China are not transparent," Anvisa said in a statement.

The regulator, which sent a group of technicians to inspect the Sinovac plant in Beijing in early December, also warned against the "influence of issues related to geopolitics" in promoting vaccines.

China’s foreign ministry spokesman Wang Wenbin said on Tuesday that China had been attaching “great importance” to the safety and efficacy of its vaccines.

CoronaVac, produced by the Chinese private laboratory Sinovac in association with the Butantan Institute of Sao Paulo, has been the target of attempts to discredit it by Brazil's far-right President Jair Bolsonaro, who sees it as a tool of both the governor of the state of Sao Paulo, Mr Joao Doria - considered as potential rival in the next election - and of the Chinese Communist regime.

Mr Bolsonaro even referred to it as "Joao Doria's Chinese vaccine", in an attempt to belittle it.

Mr Doria announced on Monday that the Butantan Institute had changed its plans and that it would present Anvisa with a request for definitive authorisation, rather than for emergency use for CoronaVac in Brazil, where the pandemic has already claimed more than 181,000 lives and infected almost seven million people.

The application will be submitted on Dec 23, he said.

Mr Doria said last week that he expected to start administering the vaccine on Jan 25 in his state of 46.2 million inhabitants, the most populous in Brazil.

The Brazilian government has said that it has guaranteed access to 300 million doses of vaccines, mainly the drug developed by the University of Oxford in alliance with the AstraZeneca group and the Brazilian health institute Fiocruz, and the international initiative Covax Facility.

It also negotiated another 70 million doses earmarked from Pfizer.

The government presented a vaccination "plan" last week, with priority sectors to receive it, but without a start date for the campaign.

The Supreme Court ordered the government on Monday to announce the start date before Wednesday.