India on Friday sent off a shipment of Corona virus vaccine to South America’s biggest nation, Brazil, via cargo to help Brazil with the acute shortage of vaccine to supply amongst the priority group. Even after the shipment of 2 million doses of the vaccine, experts from Brazil have contemplated that the shortage is still acute and supply is insufficient. Oxford AstraZeneca’s COVID-19 vaccine, Covishield, that is being locally produced by the world’s largest vaccine manufacturer, Serum Institute of India, at the rate of approximately 50 million doses a month, supplied 2 million doses of the vaccine at emergency use authorisation.
Domestically for Brazil, the state-run Fiocruz institute is under contract for production and distribution of the COVID-19 vaccine developed by AstraZeneca and University of Oxford. The said vaccine landed first in Sao Paulo and was then shipped to where Fiocruz institute is, at Rio De Janeiro. However, the shortage of raw materials that were to imported from Asia poses a big question mark on the insufficient vaccine supply for a country with 210 million people.
Brazil’s health ministry is worried about the insufficient supply, stating that the supply from India barely scratches the surface of requirement with respect to the number of people in the priority group. A bigger concern is the fact that insufficient availability of the vaccine, with some doses by Brazil’s research institute of Butantan and other by India’s shipment, would hamper the near-term ability of collective immunisation of the country because there’s no certainty about when and how much vaccine doses Brazil would have. The Sao Paulo research institute, Butantan, has a contract with the Chinese Biopharmaceutical company, Sinovac, for the supply of its CoronaVac.
Due to postponement of Indian shipment of vaccine for a few days, the country had to begin the immunisation with CoronaVac, which was usually scheduled to begin with Oxford AstraZeneca’s vaccine. However, it is to be noted that for further process of vaccination in the country, neither Butantan nor Fiocruz has adequate technology to be able to develop the vaccine. As a result, they have to readily rely on the import of active ingredients from other world countries, the supply of which has been infrequent owing to the global pandemic. As a result, not only France but other developing countries with insufficient resources are struggling to immunise the population.
The vaccination process in Brazil began with the 6 million CoronaVac doses imported from China, made available by the Butantan Institute, as mentioned. Not just that, the country also imported active raw material for the vaccine, with which it was able to generate another 4.8 million vaccine doses, the use of which has been approved by the health ministry. The spokesperson from India that confirmed the shipment of 2 million vaccine doses from New Delhi to Rio De Janeiro said that the shipment was made both for gift purpose as well as for commercial purposes. As can be easily figured, the supply is still barely at the surface level as compared to the requirement.
The University of Oxford and AstraZeneca’s vaccine shot imported from India is set to be distributed from Saturday, after a quality control inspection, said the domestic Brazil manufacturer institute, Fiocruz.
The Brazilian government’s own immunisation policy doesn’t specify the number of people in priority groups as of now, but the Health Ministry in a statement suggested that only the Frontline workers would count to a total of 10 million people, leaving behind the elder citizens and those in the red zone, risk-prone areas. The condition of Brazil is particularly concerning because the number of people that died from the Corona virus vaccine in Brazil is the second highest in the world, after the USA, standing at 2,14,000 deaths.
Brazil’s president Jair Bolsonaro in his weekly Facebook live sessions claimed that the administration is doing everything in their power to ensure sufficient supply of vaccine in the country and promise free, non-mandatory vaccine to all the Brazilians.
The number of active cases, infections and deaths are rising yet again and Brazil, despite its amazing history of immunisation campaigns and population reach programs, has terribly failed with respect to the Corona Virus pandemic, not only in the containment of the virus but also in curing it. There are a number of things that went wrong for the country logistically and economically, all resulting in the country struggling to survive the pandemic. Various reports by experts suggested that the handling of the inoculation process is also blatantly poor with respect to transparency and awareness. It is thoroughly important that the people are made aware of how and when the immunisation drive is going to take place and to gain people’s confidence in the safety of the vaccine distributed.
Irrespective of delay in the export of raw materials from Asia due to the pandemic, another reason making rounds over the internet for the delay in input materials from China to Brazil claimed that the Brazilian President Jair Bolsonaro were ally in criticism of Chinese government and thus the delay is because of the diplomatic difference of opinions. It was, however, clarifies and explained by experts of International Relations, that this theory is very simplified and convenient reasoning, completing ignoring factors like heightened global demand. This implies that even though brazil might not be in China’s priority recipient list, there’s no validity in saying that it’s intentionally being served late.
The plans set by the two institutes of the country proved to be highly unrealistic, especially due to delay in shortage. Fiocruz aimed at producing a 100 million vaccine doses by February, took its target down to 30 million, and despite that the first delivery has been postponed. Butantan institute that claimed to provide the health ministry with 45 million vaccines, came down to 5.5 million and is awaiting the supply of inputs from China after the authorisation of the Chinese government.
Brazil is struggling and the world is witnessing it. The plans formed are not able to stay in place and the government looks nothing but helpless at this moment. The world at this point needs to stay as aware as possible and countries might reach out to each other for help because, for developing countries like Brazil, that’s the only way out.
The point I would like to raise here is that vaccinations process in India is still at its primary stage. The whole vaccinations drive is just centred to the frontline workers while the rest tax paying citizens of the nation remain under the fear of catching the COVID-19 disease. Now, keeping in mind the enormous numbers of vaccines that shall be required to cover the vast population of the country, is it right on part of the government to prioritize international political relations over the health concerns of its citizens? Nobody intends to raise any finger on the government for the betterment of public relations but does doing the same at the risk of its own economy and health infrastructure does not really sound wise to me.