Latin American State Agrees To Produce Russian COVID-19 Vaccine

A COVID-19 vaccine developed by the Gamalei Scientific Research Institute of Epidemiology and Microbiology of the Russian Healthcare Ministry. The vaccine will be available to general public on January 1, 2021 and produced in Brazil.(Photo by Mikhail JaparidzeTASS via Getty Images)
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By Anthony Boadle and Pedro Fonseca

BRASILIA/RIO DE JANEIRO, Aug 12 (Reuters) – A Brazilian technology institute said on Wednesday it expects to produce a controversial coronavirus Russian vaccine by the second half of 2021, shortly after the state of Parana signed a memorandum of understanding with Moscow.

Russia has touted it as the world’s first registered coronavirus vaccine, although experts have also raised safety concerns for going to market while other pharmaceutical companies are still carrying out mass testing.

Paraná’s Technology Institute, known as Tecpar, said it may import the vaccine earlier than the production date, if Brazil’s federal health regulator Anvisa approves the vaccine.

Tecpar signed the cooperation agreement with the Russian Direct Investment Fund (RDIF), which said in a statement from Moscow that its goal was to “organize the production of the Sputnik V vaccine and its distribution in Brazil and other Latin American countries.”

Brazilian public health experts and former senior regulatory officials said on Tuesday they had safety concerns about the vaccine, which has not passed the usual mass testing required of vaccinations.

At a press conference, Tecpar Director Jorge Callado said they were still waiting for Russia to send in its phase 1 and 2 vaccine test results, and that their understanding is they are still conducting phase 3 trials.

He added that Parana would likely participate in the phase 3 testing, subject to Anvisa authorization.

Russian ambassador Sergey Akopov, speaking from Brasilia at the videoconference signing of the MOU, said the purpose of the partnership with Paraná state was “to assist each other in developing, testing and eventually producing the vaccine.”

The Russian embassy has also had discussions with the state of Bahia about a similar memorandum of understanding.

Brazil has the world’s worse coronavirus outbreak after the United States, with over 3 million confirmed cases and 100,000 deaths, making it a global hub for testing coronavirus vaccines, including British and Chinese candidates.

(Reporting by Anthony Boadle and Pedro Fonseca; Writing by Marcelo Rochabrun; Editing by Brad Haynes and Richard Chang)