Brazil in talks with US to import extra COVID vaccines

Brazil is in talks with the United States to import excess COVID-19 vaccines, the Brazilian foreign ministry said on Saturday, as the South American nation struggles to stem rising coronavirus infections and deaths.

The ministry tweeted that, along with Brazil’s embassy in Washington, it has been in discussions with the US government since March 13 “to make it possible for Brazil to import vaccines from the surplus available in the United States”.

The announcement comes after US President Joe Biden’s administration said on Thursday it would “loan” 2.5 million doses of AstraZeneca’s COVID-19 vaccine to Mexico and 1.5 million other doses to Canada amid a surplus in doses.

Brazilian President Jair Bolsonaro’s government is facing increased pressure to account for his government’s handling of the COVID-19 pandemic, as well as the slow rollout of vaccines.

The country is experiencing a surge in coronavirus infections and deaths, as more than 290,000 people have died since the start of the pandemic – the second-highest tally in the world after the US.

More than 11.8 million cases of COVID-19 have been reported in Brazil to date, according to Johns Hopkins University data.

On Saturday, the health ministry said 79,069 new cases were reported in the previous 24-hour period, along with 2,438 additional coronavirus-related deaths.

The country’s healthcare network also is near collapse in several parts of the country, as local and state officials have tried in recent weeks to impose tighter restrictions in an effort to stem the spread of the virus.

The beaches in Rio de Janeiro were closed to the public at the weekend, with Mayor Eduardo Paes urging residents to stay home amid what he described as a “very difficult” situation.

“Either we are aware of it and we respect lives, or we are going to live in an unmanageable situation in the next few days,” he added, as police officers took up positions in front of the beaches of Copacabana, Ipanema and Barra de Tijuca.

It was the first time Rio’s beaches closed to the public since they reopened in July last year.

Sao Paulo state Governor Joao Doria earlier this month also imposed a two-week, “code red” lockdown, shuttering non-essential businesses and restricting other services.

The measures have drawn some protests across Brazil, while law enforcement authorities have broken up large gatherings that violated the restrictions.

Al Jazeera’s Daniel Schweimler, reporting from Buenos Aires, said on Saturday that a problem is that there have been conflicting statements and measures from political leaders across Brazil.

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