Brazil has ordered 100 million doses of the Pfizer-BioNTech Covid-19 vaccine and another 38 million of Johnson & Johnson’s, the health minister said Monday, seeking to accelerate the hard-hit country’s lagging immunization campaign.
Health Minister Eduardo Pazuello said Brazil had secured a total of 563 million vaccine doses by the end of the year — some single- and some double-dose vaccines — and defended his handling of the pandemic, as rumors swirled that far-right President Jair Bolsonaro was close to firing him amid a surge in new cases and deaths in Brazil.
Covid-19 has been pushing hospitals close to the breaking point across the country of 212 million people, where the deaths now stand at more than 278,000 — second only to the United States.
Bolsonaro’s government has faced criticism for failing to secure enough doses of vaccine, forcing local officials to suspend immunization in some areas.
Around 4.6 percent of the population has received at least one dose of vaccine so far.
Currently, the two shots being used in Brazil are the Oxford-AstraZeneca vaccine and Chinese-developed CoronaVac.
Bolsonaro, who has defied expert advice on handling the pandemic at virtually every turn — vowing not to get vaccinated himself and joking vaccines could “turn you into an alligator” — has recently shown signs of trying to overhaul that image.
Pazuello, an army general with no prior medical experience who is Brazil’s third health minister of the pandemic, confirmed the president was “evaluating names” to replace him.
“There will be continuity” with his replacement, he told a news conference.
“We will ensure a proper transition.”
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