Brazil suspends Bharat Biotech’s Covaxin order for 20m doses | India News

Brazil will suspend a $324-million contract for Covaxin from Bharat Biotech that has mired President Jair Bolsonaro in accusations of irregularities, the health minister said on Tuesday, even as the Indian drugmaker insisted that it has not received any advance payments.
The deal to buy 20 million doses of the Covid-19 vaccine has become a headache for Bolsonaro after whistleblowers went public with alleged irregularities. One health ministry official said he alerted the president about his concerns.
Bolsonaro, whose popularity has faded as Brazil’s toll climbed past 500,000, has denied any wrongdoing, saying on Monday he was not aware of any irregularities.
Health minister Marcelo Queiroga told a news conference his team would investigate the accusations during the suspension.
“According to the preliminary analysis of the CGU (federal comptroller), there are no irregularities in the contract but, for compliance, the health ministry chose to suspend the contract,” the ministry said in a statement.
The contract was also evaluated by the ministry of health’s integrity directorate, which will carry out an administrative investigation.
Brazilian federal prosecutors have opened an investigation, citing comparatively high prices of about $15 a dose, quick talks and pending regulatory approvals as red flags.
In a statement, Bharat Biotech said it had followed a “step-by-step” approach for the regulatory approval and supply contract of its vaccine in Brazil, and had not received advance payments from the health ministry.
It added that the pricing of Covaxin had been set between $15 and $20 a dose for supplies to governments outside India.
The deal is also being probed by a Senate panel investigating Brazil’s handling of the pandemic.
One leading opposition senator on the panel, Randolfe Rodrigues, filed a formal criminal complaint against Bolsonaro with the Supreme Court on Monday.
He asked the court to investigate why Bolsonaro “did not take any action after being notified of the existence of a giant corruption scheme in the health ministry”.
On February 26, Bharat Biotech Ltd had said it entered into an agreement with the Brazilian government for the supply of 20 million doses of Covaxin during the second and third quarters of 2021.
Earlier, the National Health Surveillance Agency of Brazil, Anvisa, had denied permission to import Covaxin under emergency use authorisation after authorities found that the Indian plant at which the jab was being made did not meet good manufacturing practice requirements. However, Anvisa on June 5 gave clearance to the proposal to import Covaxin into the South American country, with some conditions. The EUA was granted on June 4.

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