Brazil set a new daily Covid-19 death toll record of 3,650 on Friday, its Health Ministry said, as the pandemic spins out of control in Latin America’s largest economy.
Since February, Brazil has seen record after record in fatalities and new cases of infection as the country second hardest hit anywhere in the world, after the United States, with more than 307,000 dead from the pandemic. It broke through the threshold of 3,000 fatalities in one day on Tuesday.
The average daily toll over the past week is 2,400 – more than triple what it was in early January.
The toll has risen steadily due to factors including people’s abandoning social distancing norms and a new virus variant that emerged here and is believed to be more contagious than the original strain.
Another big problem is that the country’s vaccination drive is moving slowly. So far only 5.9 percent of the population of 212 million has received at least one dose of coronavirus vaccine.
President Jair Bolsonaro announced this week he was launching a crisis committee to deal with the pandemic, a change of course amid mounting pressure over a situation he has repeatedly minimised.
The announcements appeared to do little to tame criticism of Bolsonaro, who has flouted expert advice on lockdowns and face masks, pushed a drug regimen that scientists say does not work, and spoken out against vaccines.
In total, Brazil has recorded 12.3 million confirmed cases of Covid-19.
‘100% BRAZILIAN’ VACCINE
São Paulo’s Butantan biomedical institute announced on Friday it is developing a “100 percent Brazilian” vaccine against Covid-19 and expects to start using it in July.
Butantan is the largest vaccine producer in Brazil and makes the CoronaVac shot produced by Chinese firm Sinovac – the most widely used against the pandemic in the South American country.
ButanVac will also be produced in Thailand and Vietnam and distributed to poorer countries.
“The results in pre-clinical tests were excellent,” said Butantan director Dimas Covas.
The vaccine needs to be authorized by Brazil’s vaccine regulator Anvisa before it can start clinical trials in April.
Butantan will be able to produce 40 million doses from May to July and 100 million by the end of the year, São Paulo state governor João Doria said.
While the CoronaVac shot is produced using imported materials, ButanVac will be “a vaccine entirely developed and produced in Brazil, without the need to import” an active ingredient needed to produce vaccines, added Doria.
ButanVac “is the response to those that deny the science and life,” said Doria in a barb at Brazil President Jair Bolsonaro, who spent months downplaying the seriousness of the coronavirus and also opposed preventative measures such as mask-wearing and the shutting down of industry.
The far-right leader likewise cast doubt on the efficacy of CoronaVac.