Brazil unveils two homegrown vaccines

·2-min read

Brazil has posted a record 3650 new COVID-19 deaths as the country also unveiled its first two domestically developed COVID-19 vaccine candidates for human trials, which although months away from use, should eventually help tame the pandemic.

More than 300,000 have died from COVID-19 in Latin America's biggest country. It is the world's second highest total after the United States, making Brazil the global epicentre of the outbreak due to a lack of federal restrictions, an infectious new variant and a patchy vaccine rollout.

Friday's record death toll was the second this week, with a historic 100,158 new coronavirus cases on Thursday.

Pressure has been mounting on President Jair Bolsonaro to tackle a public health crisis he has minimised, shunning masks, railing against lockdowns and sowing doubts about vaccines.

Bolsonaro, a far-right former army captain, has begun to change his tone on vaccines that he had previously said he would not take.

On Friday, Brazil health regulator Anvisa said it had received a request to start phase 1-2 testing of a vaccine known as Versamune, developed by the University of Sao Paulo Ribeirao Preto, in conjunction with Farmacore and PDS Biotechnology.

Brazil's Science, Technology and Innovation Minister Marcos Pontes said the Versamune vaccine was one of three federally supported shots.

Earlier, Sao Paulo's Butantan biomedical institute said it would seek approval to begin human trials for its own vaccine with the goal to begin inoculations in July.

Doria told a news conference that Butanvac production would not interfere with the state-funded institute's partnership to produce and distribute a COVID-19 shot developed by China's Sinovac Biotech.

Butantan officials said the new vaccine had been designed to protect against the contagious P1 variant of the coronavirus, which emerged in the Amazon region last year and is fuelling a deadly second wave of cases overwhelming hospitals.