The vaccination campaign against COVID-19 is just starting and is already experiencing hiccups in a Brazil in the middle of the second wave, and which will quickly run out of doses, components and even syringes, scientists warn, blaming the government.
The National Vaccination Plan began Monday in this country of 212 million inhabitants, several weeks after the United States or Europe.
The day before, the Brazilian regulator Anvisa had given its authorization for the CoronaVac vaccine from the Chinese laboratory Sinovac, of which six million doses were already available, and that of the British laboratory AstraZeneca / Oxford, of which two million doses finally arrived on Friday from the India after delays.
On Friday, a new authorization for 4.8 million doses of CoronaVac was issued for the Butantan Institute in Sao Paulo, associated with Sinovac.
The two vaccines are currently reserved for priority populations. Once the first stocks are exhausted, the supply will depend on the import of products for the on-site manufacture of CoronaVac and British vaccine.
However, as of Tuesday, professionals sounded the alarm in the face of delivery delays while the epidemic flares up again, with a thousand deaths per day in this country where 215,000 Brazilians have already officially died of the coronavirus.
“If these products do not arrive, we will have to interrupt” the vaccination campaign, fears to AFP the vice-president of the Brazilian Society of Immunology (SBIM), Isabella Ballalai.
“This causes a lot of disappointment”, says this specialist who regrets a lack of “clear positioning of the authorities to create confidence in people” and denounces “the incompetence of the Ministry of Health”.
After downplaying the severity of COVID-19, far-right President Jair Bolsonaro also questioned the effectiveness of the vaccines, and again on Friday.
At the same time, the government recognized in mid-January that it would miss 30 million syringes for the first phase of the National Plan, which aims to immunize 50 million people, without any specific timetable.
The logistical challenge is also sizeable in this nation of continental dimensions, as complaints have been filed in several cities against personalities suspected of being vaccinated when they are not a priority.
In Manaus, the capital of the state of Amazonas, where hospitals are overwhelmed, these complaints have led to a 24-hour suspension of vaccination.
Ultimately, the Butantan Institute hopes to be able to produce 40 million doses of CoronaVac. For its part, the Fiocruz foundation, which depends on the Ministry of Health, must produce the AstraZeneca vaccine. But she has already warned that her schedule could be turned upside down if the components arrive late.
For many experts, the delays in delivery from China are due to repeated criticism from the head of state of the Chinese CoronaVac, promoted by the governor of the state of Sao Paulo, Joao Doria, one of his main opponents. .
“At present, there is nothing that justifies (the lack of vaccines), if not the absolute negligence, the diplomatic incompetence of Brazil”, accused Margareth Dalcolmo, pulmonologist and researcher at Fiocruz, on the verge of tears, during a recent tribute to his work.
The director of the Butantan Institute, Dimas Covas, called on the president to have “the dignity of defending” Brazil and “to ask for the help of his Ministry of Foreign Affairs in discussions with the Chinese government”.
Jair Bolsonaro swept aside criticism Thursday that the “problem (…) is bureaucratic and not political”.
For Thomaz Favaro, political analyst at Control Risks, beyond diplomacy, “this is a management problem, because the government has been slow to sign agreements with the laboratories”.
Brazil still has no agreement to purchase the German-American vaccine Pfizer-BioNTech, nor that of the Indian laboratory Jansen.
“Brazil missed the boat to negotiate them” because it did not admit that “we could not count only” on Sinovac and AstraZeneca, estimates Mme Ballalai, who castigates a “strategic failure”.
But sooner or later, predicts Thomaz Favaro, Jair Bolsonaro will have to pay the political price. “The delay in the vaccination campaign has a heavy impact on the economic recovery. This will increase the frustration of the population ”.