Brazil’s government will “of course” buy a Chinese COVID-19 vaccine that is being tested in the country, Vice President Hamilton Mourao said on Friday, in the latest example of him contradicting President Jair Bolsonaro.
Last week, Bolsonaro, a long-standing China critic, said the federal government would not buy a COVID-19 vaccine from China’s Sinovac, one day after the health minister said that it would be included in the nation’s immunisation program.
His comments thrust into the open a simmering debate over vaccine policy between the president and key governors, who have been exploring alternatives to the AstraZeneca vaccine the federal government has prioritised.
However, in an interview in the magazine Veja that hit the stands on Friday, Mourao said Bolsonaro’s stance was without substance, putting it down to a war of words with political rivals, like Sao Paulo State Governor Joao Doria.
“The government will buy the vaccine, of course it will. We have already put the resources in Butantan to produce this vaccine. The government will not run away from that,” Mourao was quoted as saying.
A Sao Paulo State biomedical research centre, the Butantan Institute, is testing the Sinovac vaccine. Doria hopes to have regulatory approval by the end of the year and start vaccinating people in January.
On Wednesday, Brazil’s health regulator Anvisa said it had authorised the import of Sinovac’s raw materials to produce the vaccine.
As an elected official, Mourao has often felt comfortable contradicting some of Bolsonaro’s most incendiary comments. Among the business community and diplomats, he is viewed as a pragmatic voice of reason in the administration.