RIO DE JANEIRO, February 26 (Reuters) – Brazil’s biomedical institute Fiocruz has started talks with AstraZeneca Plc on alternative sources of the COVID-19 vaccine in case of possible issues surrounding the local production of the injection, a director told Reuters on Friday.
Maurício Zuma, who heads the Fiocruz unit that produces the vaccine, said it still aims to produce 110 million doses in the second half of this year, but the complexity of the production process and regulation in Brazil could hamper those plans.
As a result, he said he was exploring alternatives such as importing more active ingredients or ready-to-use dosages.
AstraZeneca injections were supposed to be a major pillar of Brazil’s vaccination campaign, starting with imports and then moving to domestic production, but their rollout was stalled.
“To produce a vaccine here is a whole process,” he said. “We think we can prepare the vaccine by the end of the third quarter, but whether we can successfully deliver it will depend on regulatory questions.”
Brazilian health regulator Anvisa has come under increasing criticism for being slow and making heavy demands on vaccine manufacturers.
“We knew we were going to have an accident in a process that would normally take years,” Zuma added.
AstraZeneca has agreed to transfer the active ingredient technology in the COVID-19 vaccine to Fiocruz to enable complete local production. But the agreement has not been signed due to the complexity of the deal, Zuma said. (Reporting by Rodrigo Viga Gaier in Rio de Janeiro Writing by Stephen Eisenhammer Editing by Matthew Lewis)