Minas Gerais lost vaccines to bureaucracy and diplomatic blunders

minas gerais vaccine
Minas Gerais Governor Romeu Zema: botched vaccine negotiations. Photo: Gil Leonardi/IMG

Newspaper Estado de Minas revealed that the state administration of Minas Gerais botched negotiations with Chinese lab Sinopharm back in August 2020, depriving the state of millions of vaccine shots to help control the coronavirus spread in one of Brazil’s worst-hit areas.

Representatives of the China National Biotec Group Company (CNBG), Sinopharm’s controller, were reportedly in negotiations with the state to produce a Covid-19 vaccine at state-owned biological institute Funed.

However, it took Minas Gerais two full weeks to respond to CNBG’s queries on whether the state wanted to formalize a contract for vaccine production and how late-stage clinical trials would work. When the time came for a meeting, local officials scheduled it for August 17, 2020 at 4 pm Brazilian time — 3 am in Beijing. 

The Chinese group then abandoned negotiations.

“Two weeks after a memorandum of understanding was signed, Minas Gerais still hadn’t proposed a plan for phase-three clinical trials. This current work progress concerns CNBG. (…) They can’t wait any longer,” said the group, in an email.

Five months later, Governor Romeu Zema now promises to bring vaccine production to the state.

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