RIO DE JANEIRO (AFP) – Brazil said on Saturday it had reached a deal to produce up to 100 million doses of the coronavirus vaccine being developed by Oxford University, which the country is helping to test.
The vaccine, which Oxford is working on with pharmaceuticals group AstraZeneca, is one of the most promising of the dozens that researchers worldwide are racing to test and bring to market.
Under the USD127-million deal, the Brazilian government’s public-health institute, the Oswaldo Cruz Foundation (Fiocruz), will acquire the technology and supplies to produce the vaccine, which is being tested in Britain and South Africa, as well as Brazil.
Health Ministry Executive Secretary Elcio Franco said the deal would give Brazil a head-start if the vaccine proves effective and safe.
“The transfer of this technology will give us production autonomy,” he told a news conference.
“Brazil is trying to avoid situations like the ones that ocurred at the start of the pandemic, when high demand prevented us from accessing supplies and medicine. And we are avoiding the exorbitant profit margins being applied during the pandemic.”
The deal gives Brazil the right to produce an initial 30.4 million doses in December and January, while the vaccine is still in testing, for USD127 million.
That includes a USD30-million fee for the rights to the vaccine technology and production process, officials said.
If the vaccine passes clinical testing, Brazil will then have the right to make a further 70 million doses, at an estimated cost of USD2.30 each.
“Even if the clinical tests do not prove successful, we will learn, our (vaccine production) technology will advance,” said Health Ministry Official Arnaldo Correia de Medeiros.
Researchers in Brazil began administering the vaccine, known as ChAdOx1 nCoV-19, to volunteers this week. Brazil was selected because it is one of the countries where the virus is spreading fastest.
It has the second-highest caseload and death toll worldwide after the United States, with more than 1.2 million people infected and 55,000 killed so far.
Experts say under-testing in the country of 212 million people means the real numbers are probably much higher.