Covid inquiry suspect accuses government and Covaxin whistleblower of lying

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Emanuela Medrades during her deposition to the Covid hearings. Photo: Jefferson Rudy/SF/CC-BY 4.0

On the second day of her deposition to the Senate’s pandemic hearings committee, Precisa Medicamentos technical director Emanuela Medrades denied that her company offered Covaxin vaccines to the Brazilian government at USD 10 per dose. The company operated as an intermediary between the administration and vaccine manufacturers in suspicious negotiations being probed by the Senate inquiry.

According to Ms. Medrades, the first amount offered was USD 15 per dose, reportedly submitted to government negotiators on January 12. “Before that, I didn’t have a value for the vaccine.”

The information contradicts Health Ministry minutes submitted to the hearings committee, which describe a meeting with Precisa representatives in which vaccines were offered at USD 10 per dose. The ministry’s former executive secretary, Colonel Élcio Franco, was present at this meeting. Ms. Medrades said he was involved in most dealings between the company and the government.

Negotiations on vaccine prices are one of the senators’ lines of inquiry, as there are suspicions the contract may have been overpriced. The contract signed with the government foresaw the delivery of 20 million doses for a total of BRL 1.6 billion (USD 310 million), which would make it the largest per jab price agreed to by Brazil.

Senators claim that, according to information brought to the inquiry, there is no record of price negotiations that would explain the final contract value. Initially, Precisa allegedly offered each dose for USD 1.34.

Present at today’s hearing, Senator Flávio Bolsonaro — the president’s eldest son — said the information written in the Health Ministry’s minutes may have been a mistake.

Ms. Medrades also denied claims made by Congressman Luis Miranda and his brother, Health Ministry official Luis Ricardo Miranda, that the pair had alerted President Jair Bolsonaro to potential irregularities in the Covaxin contract on March 22. According to the Precisa director, the first invoice was sent to the Health Ministry on March 22.

Precisa CEO Francisco Maximiano was also set to give his deposition today, but inquiry chairman Omar Aziz decided to postpone.