A first shipment of 88 litres of active ingredients to make AstraZeneca's COVID-19 vaccine has arrived in Brazil from China, essential input to speed the country's troubled inoculation program.
With those supplies flown into Rio de Janeiro by cargo plane on Saturday, the Fiocruz biomedical centre can begin filling and finishing 2.8 million doses.
The federally-funded centre expects to receive more ingredients this month to make a total 15 million shots of the vaccine developed with Oxford University.
The Fiocruz production line, originally scheduled to start producing in December, has sat idle due to delays getting the first shipment of supplies from China.
The AstraZeneca Plc vaccine is the central pillar of Brazil's national inoculation program and the federal government has ordered material for Fiocruz to make up to 100 million shots.
To start inoculating its 210 million people, Brazil has relied initially on the Chinese vaccine developed by Sinovac Biotech Ltd and 2 million ready-to-use AstraZeneca shots imported from India last month.
Pfizer Inc applied on Friday for full regulatory approval in Brazil of its COVID-19 vaccine developed with BioNTech Se, the company said.
It is the second vaccine submitted for registration in Brazil. AstraZeneca applied on January 29 for full regulatory approval.
President Jair Bolsonaro, who says he will not take any COVID-19 shot, is under pressure after a slow and patchy vaccine roll-out as Brazil battles a second wave of infections.
Bolsonaro referred to the virus as a "little flu" but his government faces mounting criticism over its handling of the world's second-deadliest coronavirus outbreak that has killed more than 231,000 Brazilians.
The nation recorded 50,630 new confirmed cases on Saturday and 978 deaths.
It has registered 9,497,795 cases since the pandemic began.
Sao Paulo's Butantan biomedical institute said on Saturday it has begun to fill-and-finish 8.6 million doses of Sinovac's vaccine called Coronavac with ingredients that arrived from China on Wednesday.
Butantan said it expects to receive another supply of ingredients on Wednesday to make an additional 8.7 million doses.