Brazil receives vaccine cargo from India amid supply concern

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A container of vaccines against COVID-19 produced by Oxford/AstraZeneca arrives from India at the International airport in Sao Paulo, Brazil, Friday, Jan. 22, 2021. (AP Photo/Marcelo Chello)

RIO DE JANEIRO – Brazil's government on Friday received 2 million doses of coronavirus vaccine from India, but experts warned the shipment will do little to shore up an insufficient supply in South America’s biggest nation.

Brazil’s Health Ministry announced that the vaccine, developed by AstraZeneca and the University of Oxford, landed in Sao Paulo before being flown to Rio de Janeiro, where Brazil’s state-run Fiocruz Institute is based. Fiocruz has an agreement to produce and distribute the vaccine.

The 2 million doses from India only scratch the surface of the shortfall, Brazilian public health experts told The Associated Press, as far more doses will be needed to cover priority groups in the nation of 210 million people, and shipments of raw materials from Asia have been delayed.

“Counting doses from Butantan (a Sao Paulo state research institute) and those from India, there isn’t enough vaccine and there is no certainty about when Brazil will have more, or how much,” said Mário Scheffer, professor of preventive medicine at the University of Sao Paulo. That shortage “will interfere with our capacity in the near-term to reach collective immunity.”

A flight from India planned for last week was postponed, derailing the federal government’s plan to begin immunization with the AstraZeneca shot. Instead, vaccination began using the CoronaVac shot in Sao Paulo, where Butantan has a deal with its producer, Chinese biopharmaceutical company Sinovac.

Countries around the world, particularly developing nations, are struggling to source sufficient vaccines for their populations. Neither Fiocruz nor Butantan has yet received the technology from their partners to produce vaccines domestically, and instead must import the active ingredients.

India’s foreign ministry said Friday evening at a press briefing in New Delhi that vaccines had been dispatched to Brazil and Morocco.

“As you can see, the supply of Indian-made vaccines is underway, both as gifts as well as on commercial basis,” ministry spokesperson Anurag Srivastava said.