COVID-19: Brazilians to participate in Chinese vaccine trial
RIO DE JANEIRO (AP) — The Sao Paulo state government announced Thursday that Brazil’s Instituto Butantan reached an agreement with the Chinese laboratory Sinovac Biotech to produce an experimental vaccine against the coronavirus.
Some 9,000 Brazilians will participate in tests beginning in July, representing the third and last stage of testing before distribution. If the vaccine is effective, it will be produced in Brazil. Sao Paulo Gov. Joao Doria said the vaccine could be available in the first half of 2021.
“Today is a historic day for Sao Paulo, Brazil and world science. The vaccine that Butantan will produce is one of the most advanced,” Doria said at a news conference. He said he hoped it can be used to immunize millions of Brazilians.
The experimental vaccine has already passed two stages of testing in China, where it was given to monkeys and then to 744 Chinese volunteers, officials say.
Dimas Covas, director of Butantan, said the vaccine is in the group of the 10 most advanced, among more than 100 that are being developed worldwide. He said it has shown to be very effective against the virus in previous test stages.
“We already have the production capacity. We need the clinical studies phase to know if the vaccine is safe and effective. If it is, we can start to produce very quickly,” Covas said.
The Sao Paulo government will invest about $17 million for the trials.
Separately, Brazil will begin this month to test a vaccine produced by the University of Oxford, also considered one of the most promising and in an advanced stage of trials. Some 2,000 Brazilians will be selected to participate in Sao Paulo and Rio de Janeiro for that project, which will be coordinated by the Federal University of Sao Paulo.
Brazil has reported more than 40,900 deaths from COVID-19, though many experts believe the toll is higher than the official count.
The cities of Rio de Janeiro and Sao Paulo advanced economic reopening measures Thursday by allowing shopping centers to resume business. Both cities have been hit the hardest by COVID-19 in Brazil, and some experts have warned that this is not the time to reopen.
In Rio, demonstrators dug 100 graves at Copacabana Beach on Thursday as a symbol of the almost 41,000 COVID-19 deaths in the country. The organizing group, Rio de Paz, said the protest was aimed at President Jair Bolsonaro, who many Brazilians have criticized for opposing city and state measures imposing lockdowns, social distancing and other steps meant to curb the spread of the coronavirus.
“The question that will be done (in the future) is ‘Why? Why so much people dead?’” said the group’s head, Antonio Costa.