Vaccines that are currently part of the National Immunization Program (PNI) are at risk of being dropped from the national campaign against Covid-19. This is the case of CoronaVac and Janssen, which still do not have definitive registration with the National Health Surveillance Agency (Anvisa). In an exclusive interview with R7, granted on Wednesday (1), the Minister of Health, Marcelo Queiroga, explained that the permanent approval of the regulator is a premise for the continuity of distribution, after the emergency health situation. For now, only Astrazeneca and Pfizer remain on the list.
Butantan has a contract signed with the federal government to supply 100 million doses. Delivery should be completed by the end of this month. The prospect of new contracts, however, should follow the progress of the registration process with Anvisa. Last week, the agency rejected the application of CoronaVac to children and adolescents between 3 and 17 years old, a factor that ends up serving as another barrier in the negotiations. The federal contract with Janssen provides for delivery of 38 million doses by the end of the year.
“These vaccines that have emergency registration are used at this time because we are experiencing a health emergency and those that have permanent registration are not sufficient to meet the needs of our system. […] Once the emergency character ceases, this provisional registration will no longer serve as a ticket to the Brazilian health system”, said Queiroga.
According to the minister, this is a criterion established by the National Commission for the Incorporation of Technologies in the Unified Health System (Conitec) and applies to all inputs, products and drugs, serving as a safety measure for the population. “The two vaccines, Astrazeneca and Pfizer, which have the registration, were approved because the scientific evidence is sufficient to justify their use.”
The same has not happened yet in the case of CoronaVac and Janssen because “there is a lack of data” to be sent to Anvisa, justified Queiroga, who says he hopes that the necessary information is supplied by the Butantan Institute and the pharmaceutical company of the Johnson and Johnson group , respectively.
For the minister, the vaccine strategy, even with current prices, is compensatory, even from an economic point of view. “If we only weigh the eventual expenses that we would have with the treatment of Covid-19, including from primary care to specialized care, and compare the costs of the vaccine, even those we have today, this represents, in 5 years, a saving for the SUS of R$ 150 billion, which is equivalent to almost a budget of the Ministry of Health”, he defended.
After the period of health emergency, Queiroga emphasizes that the costs per immunizing against Covid-19 “imperishably” will drop. The big bet is the reduction of costs with Pfizer, since, recently, the pharmaceutical signed a letter of intent with the pharmaceutical company Eurofarma and announced that it will implement a technological park in Brazil, with production and distribution of doses in Latin America.
“There will come a time when the government will buy vaccines through bidding processes and then the price will drop. Our objective is always to reduce the costs not only of vaccines, but of all other inputs”, said Queiroga, reiterating that the Brazilian market is favorable for investment, which has attracted pharmaceutical companies. “That’s why Pfizer is here. […] Much more than answering an e-mail, it is taking action so that the private sector can produce in Brazil”, he said, recalling the controversy that preceded the closing of contracts with the pharmaceutical company and stressing that the situation has been overcome.
Mandatory mask and vaccine
Despite noting that the federal government guaranteed enough doses to immunize the entire Brazilian population, including the booster dose, Queiroga admitted the need to make an active search for the population to complete the vaccination schedule. By the Ministry of Health’s calculations, more than 8.5 million people who took the first dose have not yet returned to their posts to ensure adequate immunization. The issue becomes more worrisome in view of the emergence of new variants.
According to the minister, the government has been working with effective campaigns to bring the population to health centers, even though there is still an anti-vaccination movement, defined as “small” by Queiroga, in comparison with other countries. The obligation to vaccinate and comply with non-pharmacological protocols, however, is not a move that the ministry will defend.
“We don’t want to force people to get vaccinated, to wear a mask. We give the correct information and we want the population to adhere to the recommendations. This is much more effective than these laws, imposing decrees that have very limited effect”.
As for the surveys requested by President Jair Bolsonaro to establish criteria for the end of the use of masks, the minister did not give a date, but stated that the country is moving towards this and that the withdrawal should be gradual, and that it could also be subject to new restrictions. To guide the information, the ministry takes into account data from health surveillance and experiences from other countries. “When we have a more comfortable epidemiological scenario and as the vaccination campaign progresses, it is possible to expect the removal of the masks”.
Check, in the video, the main excerpts from the interview of the Minister of Health, Marcelo Queiroga, to R7: