Brazil’s President Jair Bolsonaro rejected the announced purchase of 46 million doses of a potential vaccine against COVID-19 being developed by a Chinese company and tested in the state governed by his political rival, prompting concern he was allowing politics to steer public health decisions, reports AP.
Brazil’s health minister Eduardo Pazuello had announced the purchase on Tuesday in a meeting with Sao Paulo’s Gov. João Doria, a foe of Bolsonaro’s whose state is participating in the vaccine’s development through its Butantan Institute. The cost of the acquisition was estimated at 2 billion reais ($360 million).
“Butantan’s vaccine will be Brazil’s vaccine,” Pazuello said.
A Brazilian health ministry document issued on Monday and shared by Sao Paulo’s government Wednesday confirmed that the ministry had put in writing its intention to buy the doses of the “Butantan Vaccine-Sinovac/Covid-19” for an estimated price of $10.30 each.
The document made explicit that purchase was contingent upon the health regulator’s approval.
Brazil has confirmed more than 153,000 deaths from COVID-19, the second most in the world, behind only the US.
He has often expressed mistrust for the Asian power, Brazil’s biggest trading partner, particularly on the campaign trail in 2018. He called China “heartless” and said that under his watch it wouldn’t be allowed to buy up Brazil.