Brazil Unveils Its Own Covid-19 Shot With Plans for July Rollout

Brazil’s Butantan Institute has developed its own Covid-19 vaccine, which it plans to roll out in the coming months and offer to low income countries to help fight the pandemic.

Sao Paulo-based Butantan, which has partnered with China’s Sinovac Biotech Ltd. to produce the CoronaVac shot, will begin trials for its own vaccine -- dubbed the ButanVac -- with plans to have supplies ready by July, the institute’s director Dimas Covas said at a press conference on Friday.

Butantan, Latin America’s biggest vaccine maker, has faced problems to import certain components to produce coronavirus shots and hopes to resolve hurdles by manufacturing everything locally. Tests could start in April pending regulatory approval, Sao Paulo Governor Joao Doria said at the press conference.

The plan is to begin mass production in May to have 40 million shots ready in July. Production would be fully focused on meeting local demand first before opening for exports to other countries as well. Phase 1 and 2 trials should be held simultaneously, followed by a phase 3. Tests will also be held in Thailand and Vietnam.

“The pandemic may be kept under control in North America and Europe, but in Africa, Latin America and poor Asian countries, it will remain,” Covas said, flanked by Doria. “We need vaccines for those countries. That’s where we need to fight the epidemic to be successfully globally.”

To be sure they need them at home as well.

Brazil’s vaccination campaign has been plagued by delays, supply constraints and political infighting. So far, the country has administered first doses to about 6.6% of the population, and fully vaccinated just 2%, according to data compiled by Bloomberg.

Health Minister Marcelo Queiroga -- Brazil’s fourth health minister in the past year -- pledged this week to triple the pace of vaccinations, reaching 1 million people a day.

The technology is the same as the one used to produce flu shots, which Butantan has ample experience with, Covas said. It uses a a virus that causes Newcastle disease, which affects birds but not humans, and develops well in eggs. The widely tested technology means the vaccine is safe and also cheaper, he said.

Animal tests showed a bigger immune response, Covas said, calling results in pre-clinical trials in Brazil and India “excellent.” The tests will include different dosages and intervals, Covas said, and there’s a possibility the vaccine could only need a single shot.

The new booster won’t impact manufacturing of Sinovac’s CoronaVac vaccines locally, according to Covas.

Brazil’s government says it plans to have about 550 million vaccines available this year for its population of 210 million people.

©2021 Bloomberg L.P.

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