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Brazil prosecutors seek halt of COVAXIN purchase deal, say trial data still pending: Report

Situation is similar in India, where some states have opposed COVAXIN due to lack of trial results

March 01, 2021 / 10:07 AM IST
Brazil's President Jair Bolsonaro shaking hands with India's Prime Minister Narendra Modi during a summit on June 28, 2019. (Image Reuters)

Brazil's President Jair Bolsonaro shaking hands with India's Prime Minister Narendra Modi during a summit on June 28, 2019. (Image Reuters)

Prosecutors from Brazil are looking for the “immediate purchase suspension” of COVAXIN, after the country’s health ministry signed a contract for 20 million doses of the India-made COVID-19 vaccine, as per a document seen on February 26, Reuters reported.

Prosecutors at the country’s Federal Audit Court aka TCU have sought an injunction on the deal, arguing that manufacturer Bharat Biotech has not yet published data for Phase III clinical trials, the report said.

Moneycontrol could not independently verify the report.

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The health ministry did not respond to queries, as per the report.

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How does a vaccine work?

A vaccine works by mimicking a natural infection. A vaccine not only induces immune response to protect people from any future COVID-19 infection, but also helps quickly build herd immunity to put an end to the pandemic. Herd immunity occurs when a sufficient percentage of a population becomes immune to a disease, making the spread of disease from person to person unlikely. The good news is that SARS-CoV-2 virus has been fairly stable, which increases the viability of a vaccine.

How many types of vaccines are there?

There are broadly four types of vaccine — one, a vaccine based on the whole virus (this could be either inactivated, or an attenuated [weakened] virus vaccine); two, a non-replicating viral vector vaccine that uses a benign virus as vector that carries the antigen of SARS-CoV; three, nucleic-acid vaccines that have genetic material like DNA and RNA of antigens like spike protein given to a person, helping human cells decode genetic material and produce the vaccine; and four, protein subunit vaccine wherein the recombinant proteins of SARS-COV-2 along with an adjuvant (booster) is given as a vaccine.

What does it take to develop a vaccine of this kind?

Vaccine development is a long, complex process. Unlike drugs that are given to people with a diseased, vaccines are given to healthy people and also vulnerable sections such as children, pregnant women and the elderly. So rigorous tests are compulsory. History says that the fastest time it took to develop a vaccine is five years, but it usually takes double or sometimes triple that time.

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Brazil’s Health Ministry on February 25 signed a 1.6 billion reais ($286 million) deal for 20 million doses of COVAXIN – with the first batch of 8 million does expected in March. This came after the ministry scrapped its bidding process to “speed up” the purchase of vaccines.

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Brazil is the third most affected country after the United States and India.

Lack of late-stage data has led to criticism that the President Jair Bolsonaro-led government is “cutting corners” to make up for the slow COVID-19 vaccine roll-out in Brazil where 250,000 people have died from the disease.

The situation is similar in India, where some states have opposed COVAXIN due to a lack of trial results.

Chhattisgarh on February 11 asked the Centre to halt the vaccine’s roll-out till Phase III data is made available.

Meanwhile, Bharat Biotech said data for its late-stage trials, which included 26,000 volunteers, will only be out sometime in March. This led to renewed criticism from epidemiologists that its approval for emergency use came “too soon,” the report added.

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Moneycontrol News
first published: Mar 1, 2021 08:54 am

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