Sao Paulo Sets First Date in Latin America to Start Vaccinations

Brazil’s most populous and affluent state will start vaccinating its 46 million residents on Jan. 25, in the first concrete announcement of its kind in Latin America.

Shots of the Chinese developed CoronaVac will first be given to healthcare professionals, people over 60 years old and the indigenous population, Governor Joao Doria said at a press conference on Monday. The priority groups, which make up about 9 million people, will start getting the shots on Jan. 25 — the anniversary of the state’s capital city — with the the second dose coming on Feb. 15. Vaccinations of the elderly population will go until late March, with dates varying depending on age.

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Sao Paulo, which recorded the first case of the virus in Latin America and has been the epicenter of the pandemic in Brazil, is leading the region when it comes to obtaining a vaccine. The local government closed an agreement with China’s Sinovac Biotech Ltd. to import ready-made vaccines and produce more locally in partnership with Instituto Butantan.

In the rest of the country, a national immunization plan is in the final stages of preparation, Health Minister Eduardo Pazuello said last week. The first batches of AstraZeneca Plc’s shot should begin to arrive in January or February, he said.

Phase 3

While the Sao Paulo government has said the shot is safe and effective, results from a phase 3 trial are still not ready. State health officials expect to file paperwork with the nation’s health regulator Anvisa by Dec. 15, later than the initial timeline of the first week of December.

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When asked about the delayed vaccination schedule, Dimas Covas, the head of Instituto Butantan, said “reality imposed the change.”

Sao Paulo will make 4 million doses of the shot available to other states as well, Doria said, adding that eight local governments have already reached out to asked about the vaccine.

Residents of other states will be permitted to travel to Sao Paulo to get vaccinated, he said. The shots will be given out by the public health system, known as SUS, and Butantan can sell the vaccine to private hospitals and entities, Doria said in an interview last month.

The CoronaVac has been at the center of extensive controversy in Brazil, with President Jair Bolsonaro saying China lacks credibility to come up with solutions for the coronavirus crisis and that people wouldn’t feel safe with the shot “due to its origin.”

Over the weekend, newspapers reported that state governments wrote a letter to the federal government requesting all vaccines be made available for Brazilians through the nation’s public health system.

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