Brazil “is calm with vaccines” and the chance of missing AstraZeneca doses is “remote”, says Queiroga

(Art: Leo Albertino/InfoMoney)

SAO PAULO – The Oswaldo Cruz Foundation (Fiocruz) received this Wednesday (25) inputs for the production of 5 million doses of AstraZeneca, after a hiatus of about 40 days that delayed the application of the second dose in some locations.

Earlier this month, the Ministry of Health published a technical note authorizing the application of a second dose of Pfizer in case of lack of dose of AstraZeneca. Also, on Tuesday (24), Marcelo Queiroga, Minister of Health, reported a reduction in the range of application of doses of AstraZeneca from 12 to 8 weeks. The goal is to accelerate the vaccination of the adult population.

During Expert 2021, this Wednesday afternoon (25), Queiroga assured, however, that we will not have problems with lack of doses to vaccinate the population.

“Fiocruz will finish the delivery already started and there will be no shortage of doses of AstraZeneca, even with the reduction in the interval between doses. If there is a shortage, which I think is a remote possibility, we go back with the 12-week break. [..] We are calm about [quantidade de] vaccines: two contracts will keep us supplied, there are 100 million doses from Pfizer and another 38 million doses from Janssen by the end of the year”, said the minister during the event promoted by XP Inc.

Fiocruz has already delivered 88.4 million doses to the National Immunization Program (PNI), 84.4 million of which are vaccines produced at the Institute of Technology in Immunobiologicals (Bio-Manguinhos) and 4 million are imported ready-made from the Serum Institute, in India. Fiocruz produces vaccine in partnership with the company AstraZeneca.

In addition to reducing the interval between doses, the Ministry of Health also confirmed on Tuesday (24) that it will vaccinate the elderly and immunosuppressed with the third dose of the vaccine. Still, in some states, such as São Paulo, the vaccination of adolescents over 12 years of age has also started.

Asked what will be the main strategy used in the national immunization campaign, given the options announced recently, Queiroga says that only one central guideline is that of the PNI.

“The vaccination campaign was planned in October 2020 and organized nationwide, so all states must strictly follow the PNI. If each one does it their way, we will not be able to move quickly”, said Queiroga.

Of the ongoing plan, he said: “In September we will finish vaccinating all adults over 18 years of age. By the end of October, everyone in that group will have received the second dose. Then we will go to the third dose in elderly people over 80 years old and immunosuppressed and we are waiting for data from the research that we commissioned from Oxford University to get more answers on how to conduct this booster. About teenagers between 12 and 17 years old: whoever has comorbidity should be vaccinated”, he says.

It is worth remembering that some experts advocate the application of this third dose, after complete immunization with the second dose to avoid new outbreaks of infections (learn more here).

End of contract with Butantan?

The Health Minister was also asked about the continuation of the contract with Butantan, which produces Coronavac in partnership with the Chinese laboratory Sinovac, for next year considering the possibility of annual vaccination against Covid-19.

“Due to the pandemic context, Anvisa [Agência Nacional de Vigilância Sanitária] relaxed the criteria for granting emergency authorization to Butantan and Coronavac. But definitive registration, as Pfizer and AstraZeneca have already received, has not yet been granted. To enter the national calendar and can be used by SUS, the vaccine needs definitive authorization. And Coronavac, while helpful, does not have that definitive record. Once it obtains definitive registration and has proven scientific evidence – there are still no renowned publications on the Brazilian experience – it may be considered”, said the minister.

It is worth remembering that the federal government and the government of São Paulo, led by João Doria and where Butantan is located, have been exchanging barbs since the beginning of the pandemic due to the adoption of different political positions in the fight against the pandemic, which has been generating conflicts.

Last week, the Federal Supreme Court (STF) ordered the Ministry of Health to send to São Paulo all the Covid-19 vaccines necessary to immunize the population with the second dose, after the São Paulo government filed a lawsuit, questioning a change transfer of vaccines.

He also mentioned the case of Janssen, which also does not have a definitive record, therefore, it would also be out of the annual calendar for the time being, if necessary in 2022.

Also during the panel, Queiroga stated that the excess doses of vaccines that will arrive will be used by the PNI to complement the immunization against Covid-19.

About the third dose for those who had taken Coronavac, Queiroga was objective: “the strategy is to vaccinate with Pfizer”.

“We have more doses of Pfizer, it is a vaccine accepted in all major health systems, it has wide efficacy and there are already preliminary studies with the third dose. In other words, it has known efficacy, scientific evidence and public confidence. And we need this, since more than 8 million people have not taken the second dose and are more vulnerable to the variants”, said the doctor.

Delta variant

Another risk that has been monitored, according to Queiroga, is the increase in cases arising from infections of the delta variant of the coronavirus, which is more transmissible than any other variant found so far.

In Brazil, there are cases from the variant in 16 states and the Federal District, with the main focus being in Rio de Janeiro.

“The authorities in Rio de Janeiro are taking the necessary measures and we are going to increase vaccination. We are sending more doses of vaccines, and we are going to reinforce the health system to guarantee hospital beds”, said Queiroga.

“We are betting on a strategy that has proven to be important: testing. We partnered with Fiocruz to acquire 60 million rapid antigen tests to diagnose asymptomatic cases in order to reduce the circulation of the virus”, he said.

According to him, there are several scenarios outlined in cases of uncontrolled increase in cases caused by the delta variant. “But let’s not keep making doomsday predictions. We are following the evolution on a daily basis and we are going to pass on to society the information and plans as we have scientific evidence and proven data”, he says.

Open health?

At the end of the panel, the minister of health highlighted the importance of promoting a health sector with more technology and connected infrastructure.

“The work that Roberto Campos Neto has been doing at the Central Bank is one of the best administrations in the last 20 years with initiatives such as Open Banking and Pix. Why not do something similar to health, Open health? With more data and hospital integration, it would be easier to carry out portability and the quality of the health system as a whole could improve”, he said.

Similar initiatives in other countries around the world such as Australia. O InfoMoney it promoted a series of lives on Open Banking and Opern Finance and economist Ricardo Amorim explained a little more about the advantages of implementing an Open health in Brazil (see here).

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