Brazil begins to make own COVID-19 vaccine

Thursday, 2021-04-29 17:12:13
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Brazil's Sao Paulo-based Butantan Institute, a state-run medical research facility, on Wednesday began to manufacture ButanVac, the first Brazilian vaccine against the novel coronavirus disease (COVID-19), state governor Joao Doria announced.

"It will be the first vaccine manufactured entirely in Brazil, without the need to import raw materials," Doria said during a press conference at the institute, which is funded by the state government.

Production began on the first of an expected 18 million doses by mid-July, though Brazil's Health Regulatory Agency (Anvisa) has yet to authorize the vaccine.

The institute also makes and packages the CoronaVac vaccine developed by Chinese pharmaceutical firm Sinovac Life Sciences. CoronaVac has been applied since Jan. 17 as part of Brazil's vaccination campaign against the coronavirus.

"In the first half of July, it will be ready for use as soon as Anvisa authorizes it. Production of ButanVac can reach 100 million or 150 million doses by the end of the year," said Doria.

Anvisa on Tuesday requested more documentation from the institute before authorizing the start of human trials of ButanVac.

"We hope for a sense of urgency from Anvisa," said Doria, whose state is the hardest hit by the pandemic.

Butantan, the main manufacturer of influenza vaccines in the Southern Hemisphere and the leading supplier of the Brazilian Ministry of Health, represents 85 percent of the international consortium involved in researching the new vaccine.

The Sao Paulo government said 1,800 volunteers will take part in the first and second phases of human trials, once authorized.

* Brazil on Wednesday registered 3,163 more deaths from COVID-19 in the past 24 hours, raising the national count to 398,185, the world's second-highest COVID-19 death toll after the United States, the Ministry of Health said.

The ministry said that tests detected 79,726 new COVID-19 cases, taking its nationwide tally to 14,521,289.

April has been the month with the most deaths since the outbreak of the pandemic in the Latin American nation, with about 70,000 fatalities having been reported to date, compared with 66,000 deaths for March.

Southeast Sao Paulo, home to 46 million inhabitants, is the country's hardest-hit state, with 94,656 deaths and 2,873,238 infections.

An 8:00 p.m.-5:00 a.m. curfew is in place to encourage residents to stay at home, a measure that has succeeded in reducing the occupancy of hospital intensive care units to 80.5 percent, according to Sao Paulo Governor Joao Doria.

Meanwhile, local variants of the virus are now predominating, the state-run Adolfo Lutz Institute said, adding that 90 percent of infections in the state of Sao Paulo in March were attributed to the P1 or Amazonas variant, compared with 20 percent in January.

"The increase in cases, hospitalizations and deaths in the first quarter may be linked to the circulation of this variant," the institute's Disease Control Coordinator Regiane de Paula said.