Bolsonaro gloats as Chinese-made vaccine suspended

"Jair Bolsonaro wins again." Photo: YouTube/Jair Messias Bolsonaro
“Jair Bolsonaro wins again.” Photo: YouTube/Jair Messias Bolsonaro

As we informed in today’s Daily Briefing, Brazilian health regulators Anvisa have suspended late-stage trials of the Chinese-developed CoronaVac vaccine, after encountering a “severe adverse event” in one of the volunteers in Brazil. On his Facebook page, Brazil’s president celebrated the decision, claiming that “Jair Bolsonaro wins again.”

Mr. Bolsonaro is adamantly opposed to the CoronaVac, developed by Chinese firm Sinovac in partnership with the São Paulo-based Butantan Biological Institute. The vaccine is seen as a project of São Paulo Governor João Doria — among the president’s biggest rivals for the right-wing vote come the 2022 elections.

In October, President Bolsonaro stepped in to cancel an agreement between the Health Ministry and the São Paulo state government to purchase 46 million doses of the CoronaVac, a decision Mr. Doria called “criminal.”

Both Sinovac and the Butantan Biological Institute have shown their concern at Anvisa’s move to suspend clinical trials, claiming that the “adverse event” — the death of a 33-year-old volunteer in São Paulo — had no connection to the vaccine. Indeed, information received by state health authorities corroborated this view, though it is unclear whether the deceased had been administered the vaccine or a placebo.

While Anvisa exists as an independent regulatory body, President Bolsonaro has significant support on the agency’s board. The majority of its members were handpicked by the president, and chairman Antônio Barra Torres famously marched alongside Mr. Bolsonaro during public demonstrations at the beginning of the coronavirus pandemic, in a clear violation of social distancing rules.

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