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New coronavirus vaccine trials start in Brazil

July 21, 2020 GMT
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Brazil's President Jair Bolsonaro who is infected with COVID-19, wears a protective face mask as he makes a heart sign to supporters during a Brazilian flag retreat ceremony outside his official residence the Alvorada Palace, in Brasilia, Brazil, Monday, July 20, 2020. (AP Photo/Eraldo Peres)
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Brazil's President Jair Bolsonaro who is infected with COVID-19, wears a protective face mask as he makes a heart sign to supporters during a Brazilian flag retreat ceremony outside his official residence the Alvorada Palace, in Brasilia, Brazil, Monday, July 20, 2020. (AP Photo/Eraldo Peres)

SAO PAULO (AP) — Brazilian health authorities on Tuesday were starting a three-month test of a coronavirus vaccine produced by Chinese pharmaceutical company Sinovac — one of a handful around the world that are entering late-stage testing to prove effectiveness.

Dimas Covas, president of the Butantan Institute coordinating the study, said at a press conference that if the vaccine proves safe and effective, Brazil would receive 120 million doses from China at the beginning of next year, which will allow 30 million Brazilians to be vaccinated.

It’s one of nearly two dozen potential vaccines that are in various stages of human testing worldwide.

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Brazil’s soaring COVID-19 outbreak makes it useful for testing whether a potential vaccine works in widespread presence of the new coronavirus. The federal Ministry of Health said Monday that Brazil has now recorded more than 2 million confirmed cases of COVID-19 and 80,120 deaths.

Brazil is also helping test a coronavirus vaccine produced in a partnership between Oxford University and the pharmaceutical company AstraZeneca, and federal authorities on Tuesday authorized tests of a third vaccine produced by Pfizer and BioNTech.

The Sinovac tests on 9,000 volunteers, all health professionals, in six Brazilian states, are being coordinated by Butantan, a Sao Paulo state scientific institute that has been producing vaccines for over a century.

Half of the volunteers will receive two doses of vaccine starting this week, while the other half will receive two doses of a placebo.

Meanwhile, a human rights arm of the Organization of American States said on Monday that Brazil needs to take measures to protect Indigenous populations from COVID-19.

The commission said Brazil must introduce a plan within 15 days to protect the Yanomami and Ye’kwana groups, which live in remote northern regions, “because they are in a situation of great danger.” Few ventilators and intensive-care beds are available close to their lands in the Amazon region.

The commission said that Brazil’s government argued it is doing its job with the Indigenous, but didn’t specify what it is doing for those groups.

The Yanomamis presented a request in mid-June to pressure the Brazilian government to remove illegal miners and loggers from their lands. They blame such intruders for bringing the virus.

The Brazilian government didn’t respond to a request for comment.

Brazil’s Health Ministry estimates about 200 Indigenous people have died of COVID-19, but another count by independent groups tracking the situation says the actual figure is twice as high.

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Daniel Carvalho reported from Brasilia, Brazil.

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