By Ethan Resnik
Brazil’s distribution of the Covid-19 vaccine has been tumultuous. Brazil’s primary strategy was to manufacture 100 million doses of AstraZeneca vaccine. This process has been delayed countless times, forcing the Brazilian government to turn to a plan B. Brazil administered their first vaccine on Jan. 17, according to Reuters.
Brazil is using China’s Sinovac Biotech Ltd vaccine. This vaccine is only shown to be 50% effective according to Reuters.
Brazil is not expected to receive doses of the AstraZeneca vaccine until late March. Brazil has been one of the hardest hit countries by the pandemic. The country has tallied 218,000 deaths, second only to the U.S. Brazil has also only vaccinated less than 0.5% of their population, according to Reuters. The newcomers to the Brazilian Health ministry failed to secure supplies in a global competition to get resources to fight the virus.
Brazil’s President, Jair Bolsonaro, has stocked the Health Ministry “with active-duty and retired military men with little public health experience,” according to Reuters. The Ministry’s hesitance led to them missing ordering 70 million vaccines. Hesitation is not the only issue the Brazilian Health Ministry has had.
Throughout the pandmeic, President Bolsonaro has been a huge voice in the promotion of the drugs chloroquine and hydroxychloroquine to cure Covid-19. Multiple studies have shown that these drugs are not effective against Covid-19 in general, according to CNN. Multiple documents have now shown that the government has spent emergency funds on these drugs.
The Brazilian Government continued to produce and supply these medicines in 2020 despite the results of numerous studies published in May 2020 stated that the two medicines were ineffective.
President Bolsonaro has constantly talked up the alleged benefits of hydroxychloroquine in fighting Covid-19. Bolsonaro himself tested positive last July, then saying “If I had taken hydroxychloroquine as a preventative measure, I would still be working,” according to CNN.
While he was in quarantine, the President of Brazil posted a video of himself taking hydroxychloroquine. Back in early May, the government recommended Chloroquine for early treatment of Covid-19. In June, the Government extended the recommendation to children and pregnant women. Two days later, the Brazilian Society of Infectious Diseases published an open letter saying it was “urgent and necessary” to halt the use of hydroxychloroquine in the treatment of Covid-19, according to CNN.
“There was not sufficient focus on the vaccines, and a lack of technical vision,” former Health Minister Nelson Teich told Reuters in an interview. The Health ministry of Brazil requested 1.5 million doses of hydroxychloroquine to be distributed to state health departments between April and August.
The distributions continued in the second half of the year, even after the FDA had revoked its emergency use authorization and several studies had concluded that chloroquine and hydroxychloroquine were not effective in the treatment of Covid-19, according to BBC. With few options left, the Health Ministry recently announced a deal to purchase up to 100 million doses from Butantan. President Bolsonaro still does not like the vaccine: “In the Pfizer contract it’s very clear: ‘we’re not responsible for any side effects.’ If you turn into a crocodile, it’s your problem,” Bolsonaro said according to AFP.