Brazil signs letter of intent to purchase five COVID vaccines


FILE PHOTO: Medical workers take care of a patient at the intensive care unit (ICU) of the Nossa Senhora da Conceicao hospital, during the coronavirus disease (COVID-19) outbreak, in Porto Alegre, Brazil, November 19, 2020. REUTERS/Diego Vara/File Photo

BRASILIA (Reuters) - Brazil's health ministry said on Sunday it will sign non-binding letters of intent to purchase coronavirus vaccines from four companies and Russia's sovereign wealth fund, adding that any purchase will depend on the approval of the nation's regulators.

According to the ministry, officials met last week with representatives of Pfizer Inc, India's Bharat Biotech, the Russian Direct Investment Fund, Moderna Inc and Janssen, a unit of Johnson & Johnson.

In a statement, the ministry said its legal and technical departments were analyzing the documents presented by the five entities and determining the best way to go about purchasing vaccines at "the opportune moment."

The government has contracts in place to guarantee access to 142,900,000 coronavirus vaccine doses, enough to immunize at least a third of Brazil's population, officials said in the statement.

So far, the Brazilian federal government's main bet is on a vaccine being developed by AstraZeneca PLC, with which it has already signed a supply contract.

In Sao Paulo, Brazil's largest state, local authorities have signed a deal with China's Sinovac Biotech Ltd to test and produce a vaccine locally. Brazilian President Jair Bolsonaro, a long-time critic of China, has dismissed that vaccine as untrustworthy, without presenting evidence.

(Reporting by Marcela Ayres; Writing by Gram Slattery)

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