Posted November 11, 2020 1:28 am by

Row erupts over Brazil suspension of Chinese vaccine trials

Dimas Covas, director of the Butantan Institute, speaks during a press conference in Sao Paulo on November 10, 2020 © AFP / Nelson ALMEIDA

Sao Paulo, Brazil, Nov 10 – Brazil’s decision to halt trials of a Chinese-developed Covid-19 vaccine triggered a politically charged row Tuesday as a top health official expressed “indignation” and far-right President Jair Bolsonaro claimed the ruling as a personal victory.

Brazilian health regulator Anvisa announced late Monday it was suspending clinical trials of CoronaVac, developed by Chinese pharmaceutical firm Sinovac Biotech, after a “severe adverse incident” involving a volunteer in the study.

However, the public health center coordinating the trials in Brazil, the Butantan Institute, said there was no connection between the incident and the vaccine.

Privacy regulations prevent public health officials from disclosing details on the incident, which came as a setback for one of the most promising vaccines aiming to end the pandemic.

But the coroner’s office that carried out an autopsy on the deceased volunteer’s body told AFP police were investigating the death as a suicide.

“There is no relation with the vaccine,” said Dimas Covas, head of the Butantan Institute, a respected public health center.

Anvisa’s decision, he told a news conference, “came as a surprise… and caused indignation here at Butantan.”

“We don’t even know if this patient took the vaccine or a placebo,” said the coordinator of the Sao Paulo state government’s Covid-19 task force, Joao Gabbardo.

Sinovac also said the incident was unrelated to CoronaVac, adding it was “confident in the safety of the vaccine.”

Anvisa chief Antonio Barra Torres told a separate news conference the agency had made a “technical decision” based on “incomplete and insufficient data” from the Butantan Institute on the cause of the incident.

– Vaccine politics –

CoronaVac has been caught up in a messy political battle in Brazil, where its most visible backer has been Sao Paulo Governor Joao Doria, a leading Bolsonaro opponent.

The president has thrown his support behind another vaccine, developed by Oxford University in Britain and the British-Swedish pharmaceutical firm AstraZeneca.

Bolsonaro and Doria have also sparred over whether vaccination should be mandatory.

The president, who has railed against CoronaVac as “Joao Doria’s Chinese vaccine” and blocked the federal government from purchasing it, claimed the regulatory decision as vindication.

“Death, disability, malfunction. This is the vaccine Doria wants to require all Sao Paulo residents to receive,” Bolsonaro wrote on Facebook.

“The president said this vaccine could never be mandatory. Chalk up another win for Jair Read More…Row erupts over Brazil suspension of Chinese vaccine trials  Row erupts over Brazil suspension of Chinese vaccine trials  Row erupts over Brazil suspension of Chinese vaccine trials  Row erupts over Brazil suspension of Chinese vaccine trials