A Brazilian association of private health clinics said Sunday it was negotiating with Indian pharmaceutical firm Bharat Biotech to buy five million doses of its Covid-19 vaccine, which India has just authorized for emergency use.
The Brazilian Association of Vaccine Clinics (ABCVAC) confirmed on its website it had signed a memorandum of understanding with the Indian firm to purchase its Covaxin vaccine, which is currently in the final stage of clinical trials.
Any final deal would be subject to approval by Brazil's health regulator, Anvisa, which has yet to approve any vaccines against the new coronavirus.
Far-right President Jair Bolsonaro's government faces mounting criticism of dragging its feet on a vaccination campaign in Brazil, which has the second-highest death toll in the pandemic, after the United States.
ABCVAC described its planned deal with Bharat Biotech as a way to ensure Brazilians using the private health system — typically the wealthy — would have access to a vaccine, even as the government reserves its own initial doses for the public health system and high-priority groups such as health workers and the elderly.
"We had been looking for solutions for the private market, and the possibility came up of using this Indian vaccine, which is very promising," ABCVAC president Geraldo Barbosa told TV network Globo News.
"It's an additional sale that will not interfere with the quantity of vaccine doses the government has ordered."
India approved vaccines from both Bharat and Britain's Oxford University earlier Sunday for "restricted use in emergency situations," even though the former is still in testing.
The country has set an ambitious target of vaccinating 300 million of its 1.3 billion people by mid-year.
Brazil is meanwhile struggling to get its vaccination campaign off the ground, amid political squabbling and vaccine skepticism from Bolsonaro, who regularly flouts expert advice on containing the pandemic and says he does not plan to get a Covid-19 shot himself.
The government has secured 100 million doses of the Oxford vaccine, but has yet to set a start date, get regulatory approval or acquire the necessary syringes.
Brazil's health ministry is due to announce the start date for its vaccination campaign Monday.