China's Sinovac vaccine to be included in Brazil's immunization program, governors say

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FILE PHOTO: Media tour at Chinese vaccine maker Sinovac Biotech in Beijing
FILE PHOTO: Media tour at Chinese vaccine maker Sinovac Biotech in Beijing

BRASILIA (Reuters) - The Brazilian government will include China's Sinovac vaccine against COVID-19 in its national immunization program, state governors said on Tuesday after a meeting with the country's health minister, in addition to one developed by AstraZeneca and Oxford University.

This means the experimental Chinese vaccine called Coronavac, which Brazil's largest state of Sao Paulo had hoped to provide to its residents, may also be used to vaccinate Brazilians elsewhere, a major success for Sinovac in a nation of 230 million people.

The federal government already has plans to purchase the UK vaccine and produce it at its biomedical research center FioCruz in Rio de Janeiro, while the Chinese vaccine is being tested by Sao Paulo state's research center Butantan Institute.

Sao Paulo governor Joao Doria said after the Health Ministry meeting that the federal government has agreed to buy 46 million doses of the Sinovac vaccine.

The national vaccination program could begin in January 2021, he said, which could make it one of the first immunization efforts against coronavirus in the world.

The Butantan Institute said on Monday that preliminary results from late-stage clinical trials of CoronaVac on 9,000 volunteers have proven that the two-dose Chinese vaccine is safe.

Butantan director Dimas Covas said data on how effective the vaccine is will not be released until the trial is completed.

The result is only preliminary and researchers will keep monitoring the participants in the ongoing trial, Covas said. It's the first set of results of Sinovac's global Phase 3 trials, which are also being conducted in Turkey and Indonesia.

The Sao Paulo government has already asked health regulators to approve CoronaVac for use, a major step in what could be one of the first vaccination programs in the Americas.

(Reporting by Anthony Boadle; Editing by Christian Plumb)