Police report: “severe adverse event” that paralyzed vaccine trials was suicide

Butantan Director Dimas Covas. Photo: Govesp

On Monday, Brazil’s national health regulator Anvisa halted late-stage trials of a Chinese-made coronavirus vaccine being tested by the state of São Paulo, citing a “severe adverse event.” The São Paulo-based Butantan Biological Institute, however, released a police medical examination showing that the death of a 33-year-old volunteer in the test had in fact been ruled as suicide, thus not connected to the vaccine trials.

The aftermath of the test suspension has raised a war of narratives between the federal government and the São Paulo state administration. 

Anvisa chairman Antônio Barra Torres said the government was not informed of the medical examiner’s report that ruled the death as suicide, suggesting the study has lacked transparency in its reporting of information. Mr. Barra Torres also highlighted that the agency is “not a partner of any lab or institute.” 

But organizers of the clinical trial say that they had ruled out any relation between the death and the vaccine from the beginning.

Butantan board member Dimas Covas said the institute was “blindsided” by the move to suspend testing, and members of the São Paulo government suggested that it was a political decision — as President Jair Bolsonaro has repeatedly undermined the Chinese-made vaccine. After the suspension, the president gloated on Facebook that “Jair Bolsonaro wins again.”

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