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Brazil's Bolsonaro asks Pfizer to speed up COVID-19 vaccine delivery

Brazil's Bolsonaro asks Pfizer to speed up COVID-19 vaccine delivery

A health worker gives a shot of the Pfizer vaccine for COVID-19 at a community medical center in Sao Paulo, Brazil, Thursday, on May 6, 2021. (Photo: AP Photo/Andre Penner)

BRASILIA: Brazilian President Jair Bolsonaro on Monday (Jun 15) asked Pfizer to bring forward planned delivery of COVID-19 vaccines, a government source said, aiming to speed up a slow national inoculation program.

The request is a turnaround for Bolsonaro who last year ignored offers of vaccines from Pfizer, according to testimony to a Senate commission investigating delays in vaccinating the country with the world's second-deadliest outbreak.

Bolsonaro, his chief of staff and ministers of health and foreign affairs, held a conference call with Pfizer Brasil Chief Executive Marta Diez and Pfizer Latin America Chief Executive Carlos Murillo, the president's office said on social media.

READ: Brazil plans to remove mask requirement for vaccinated people: Bolsonaro

Bolsonaro asked the Pfizer executives if deliveries for later this year could be brought forward to June, from the fourth quarter, a government official with knowledge of the matter told Reuters.

Pfizer Brasil declined to comment on the meeting.

Almost half a million Brazilians have died from COVID-19, yet only 10.3 per cent of the country's 210 million people have received a first vaccine dose, and just 25 per cent have been fully vaccinated, mainly with vaccines developed by China's Sinovac Biotech and AstraZeneca.

Bolsonaro, a vaccine skeptic who opposed lockdown and social distancing, has advocated the use of anti-malaria drug hydroxychloroquine for treating COVID-19 patients, even though there is no evidence that it is effective.

READ: Brazil's Bolsonaro fined for maskless motorcyle rally

The far-right leader's government is being investigated by a Senate commission for delays in a vaccination plan that lags behind many other countries. The commission heard testimony that the government never replied to letters from Pfizer last year offering to sell vaccines.

Brazil signed a deal with Pfizer in March to purchase 100 million doses, and the first doses arrived in late April. A second contract in May provided for another 100 million doses to be delivered in the fourth quarter.

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Source: Reuters/ga

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