Brazilian regulators suspend CoronaVac trial

. Nov 10, 2020
coronavirus vaccine brazil regulation Photo: Cadu Rolim/Shutterstock

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Today, we explain Brazil’s latest coronavirus vaccine controversy. Brazil’s place among the world’s top economies. And a setback for reducing carbon emissions.

Brazil halts Chinese vaccine tests

Citing an unspecified “severe adverse event,” Brazil’s Health Surveillance Agency (Anvisa)

suspended clinical trials of the CoronaVac — the potential Covid-19 vaccine being developed by Chinese pharmaceutical company Sinovac Biotech and tested in Brazil by the state government of São Paulo. The trial organizers countered the information, saying the regulators based their decision on the death of a volunteer in the study that was unrelated to the vaccine.</p> <ul><li>The state of São Paulo said it found out about the decision through the press, and called for a press conference today at 11 am (Brasília time).</li></ul> <p><strong>Why it matters.</strong> The decision stops local trials on one of the most-advanced vaccine studies in the world. In October, preliminary data indicated that just over one-third of patients suffered from at least one side effect (35 percent), <a href="">lower than other potential vaccines</a> being tested in the country.</p> <ul><li>The decision to stop the trials came hours after São Paulo announced construction had begun on Latin America’s first Covid-19 vaccine factory.</li></ul> <p><strong>Backdrop.</strong> The CoronaVac has become subject to a culture war, opposing São Paulo Governor João Doria and President Jair Bolsonaro, who has undermined the Chinese vaccine. The two men have used the pandemic to <a href="">boost their own electoral stock</a>, with their eyes on the 2022 presidential race.</p> <ul><li>The federal government has not included CoronaVac on its 2021 federal vaccination calendar. Mr. Bolsonaro even personally ordered that the Health Ministry tear up an agreement between São Paulo and the government for the purchase of 46 million doses.</li><li>Last month, São Paulo&#8217;s Butantan Biological Institute <a href="">accused federal regulators</a> of delaying permits for the import of necessary inputs for the Chinese vaccine.</li></ul> <p><strong>Bottom line.</strong> The excessive politicization around the CoronaVac — from both sides — has sown doubt around the effectiveness or dangers of the vaccine. Thanks to the constant posturing by the federal government, the public cannot be sure whether Anvisa&#8217;s decision to suspend trials is a measured science-based decision, or if it is purely a political maneuver.</p> <p><strong>Meanwhile … </strong>The Brazilian government has restarted talks with Pfizer to buy millions of doses of its potential vaccine, after an independent report showed it has an efficacy rate of over 90 percent. Negotiations had been halted because Pfizer refused to engage in a technology transfer deal with Brazilian labs, which other vaccine producers have been open to. However, as the company appears to have taken a clear lead in the coronavirus vaccine race, technology transfer has become a secondary issue.</p> <div class="flourish-embed flourish-map" data-src="visualisation/4300888"><script src=""></script></div> <hr class="wp-block-separator"/> <h2>Brazil to drop out of top 10 economies by absolute GDP</h2> <p>With a projected 5.8-percent GDP slide in 2020&nbsp;—&nbsp;and the massive devaluation of the Brazilian Real (34 percent so far this year) — the Brazilian GDP in U.S. Dollars will shrink 28 percent in comparison with 2019. The rout of Brazil&#8217;s currency is the result of the coronavirus crisis combined with political turmoil and enhanced fears of the country&#8217;s fiscal outlook.</p> <ul><li>Brazil is set to lose three positions in the ranking of the world&#8217;s biggest economies, falling out of the top 10.</li></ul> <div class="flourish-embed flourish-chart" data-src="visualisation/4300865"><script src=""></script></div> <p><strong>Pinnacle.</strong> Back in 2011, with Brazil fresh off the back of a commodities boom and enjoying some of its lowest unemployment rates ever recorded, the country had the seventh-biggest economy in the world. At that point, the foreign exchange rate sat at around USD 1 : BRL 1.80.</p> <p><strong>Yes, but … </strong>Comparing countries&#8217; GDP in absolute numbers could be deceiving. By purchasing power parity (PPP), a measurement that compares the value of specific goods between multiple countries, Brazil would actually <em>gain</em> two positions in the ranking, leapfrogging France and the United Kingdom.</p> <ul><li>The PPP ranking puts China ahead of the U.S. as the world&#8217;s largest economy.</li></ul> <div class="flourish-embed flourish-chart" data-src="visualisation/4301793"><script src=""></script></div> <p><strong>Job market.</strong> One of the biggest challenges for the Brazilian economy will continue being massive unemployment. Central Bank Chairman Roberto Campos Neto said on Monday that the quick modernization of Brazilian companies should prevent many of the workers who lost their job during the pandemic from finding new positions. The new balance of the Brazilian economy could include double-digit unemployment.</p> <hr class="wp-block-separator"/> <h2>Court order slashes carbon reduction goals for fuel distributors</h2> <p>A Brazilian court granted a request by fuel distributors to reduce their individual targets to purchase decarbonization credits (known as CBIOs) by 25 percent. The decision comes after the National Council for Energy Policy (CNPE) had already granted companies 50-percent cuts to their goals, due to the pandemic.</p> <p><strong>Why it matters.</strong> As we explained on October 19, CBIOs can be the <a href="">first step towards an actual carbon market</a> in Brazil.&nbsp;</p> <p><strong>What are CBIOs?</strong> These carbon credits are issued by biofuel producers based on the difference between carbon emission by their fuels and fossil alternatives. For each CBIO issued, one ton of carbon dioxide emissions will be spared.</p> <ul><li>According to a fuel distributors&#8217; association, only half of the sector’s targets for 2020 were met, with just two months left in the year.</li></ul> <p><strong>Prices.</strong> Data from the São Paulo stock exchange shows that CBIOs were trading at an average value of BRL 50 (USD 9.28) per certificate as of November 6 — the maximum value per transaction reached up to BRL 72 in recent weeks.&nbsp;</p> <ul><li>In a statement, fuel producers said that they went to the courts to “make sure distributors would reach their mandatory targets, but without forcing consumers to deal with price spikes.”</li></ul> <p><strong>Yes, but …</strong> Brazil&#8217;s national biofuels policy was negotiated for years before mandatory targets were established. Also, when CBIOs were launched, prices were as low as BRL 15.</p> <hr class="wp-block-separator"/> <h2>What else you need to know today</h2> <ul><li><strong>Out of office.</strong> The Peruvian Congress has voted to oust President Martin Vizcarra over allegations that he received kickbacks from private companies during his time as governor of the southern region of Moquegua. This was the third ousting attempt against Mr. Vizcarra in one year — and it throws Peru into a deep crisis, as it grapples with massive recession and one of the world&#8217;s highest coronavirus death rates. &#8220;This is a coup in disguise. We need calm, but also a lot of citizen vigilance,&#8221; said George Forsyth, a former footballer and mayor who is running in next year&#8217;s presidential race.</li><li><strong>Mariana.</strong> A UK court decided against continuing a <a href="">case filed by over 240,000 individuals</a> who were affected by the 2015 Mariana dam collapse, which caused 19 deaths and widespread environmental devastation. The case targeted mining firm BHP, as the Anglo-Australian group is one of the joint controllers of Samarco, alongside major Brazilian mining company Vale.</li><li><strong>Hacking. </strong>After being unusable for days following a <a href="">massive hacker attack</a>, the Superior Court of Justice — Brazil&#8217;s second-highest judicial body&nbsp;— informed that its systems are returning to normal. Still, many of the court&#8217;s trial panels postponed their reopening (scheduled for today) until next week, after noting &#8220;instability&#8221; in the network — a total of 12,000 cases were halted over the past few days. The Federal Police has reportedly identified a suspect.</li><li><strong>Energy. </strong>The government has been able to re-establish about 70 percent of the electricity supply of the northern Brazilian state of Amapá. Over most of last week, all but two municipalities of the state endured a blackout after a power plant caught fire. Still, it should <a href="">take another seven days</a> for service to be fully reinstated, according to Mines and Energy Minister Bento Albuquerque. The state&#8217;s top court says that, despite the outage, the state will carry on with its municipal elections on Sunday.</li><li><strong>Abortion rights.</strong> The Federal Prosecution Service has opened a preliminary investigation into whether Human Rights Minister Damares Alves coordinated an effort of religious activists to prevent a <a href="">10-year-old rape victim</a> from having a legal abortion back in August. The child&#8217;s name and the address of the clinic where the procedure would take place were both leaked online, forcing the girl to fly to another state in order to perform the procedure. If proven that Ms. Alves committed any illegal act, a formal inquiry will be opened.

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