Economy|Business and Economy
Brazil probes vaccine contract with India’s Bharat Biotech
Prosecutors cite the drug’s high price, speedy talks and pending regulatory approvals as red flags for the contract.
Prosecutors are questioning why the health ministry agreed to buy the Bharat vaccine, which had not cleared regulatory hurdles [File: Pilar Olivares/Reuters]
23 Jun 2021
Brazilian federal prosecutors have opened an investigation into a contract worth 1.6 billion reals ($320m) for 20 million doses of a COVID-19 vaccine made by India’s Bharat Biotech, according to a document seen by Reuters.
The prosecutor-general’s office (PGR) cited comparatively high prices, speedy talks and pending regulatory approvals as red flags for the Bharat contract signed in February, before similar deals with Pfizer Inc and Johnson & Johnson.
Bharat did not respond to a request for comment outside of business hours in India.
The Bharat contract has also drawn scrutiny from a Brazilian Senate inquiry, which called for testimony on Wednesday from the head of Precisa Medicamentos, Bharat’s intermediary in Brasilia.
Justifying the preliminary probe, prosecutors flagged in a document dated June 16 that Precisa’s partners include Global Saude, a company accused of selling but not delivering medicine to the Ministry of Health in a case under investigation by police.
Precisa said it had no knowledge of the prosecutors’ probe and it was open to cooperating with Senate investigators. In a statement, the company said its talks with the health ministry were transparent and the price of Bharat’s vaccine in Brazil was the same charged in more than a dozen other countries.
The Ministry of Health said in a statement on Tuesday that no payment of any kind had been made to Precisa and that its legal department was analysing the case.
Global Saude did not immediately respond to requests for comment.
Prosecutors questioned why the Ministry of Health had agreed to buy the Bharat vaccine, which had not cleared regulatory hurdles, for about $15 per dose: significantly more than what it paid for Pfizer’s vaccine, which had regulatory approval.
“The history of irregularities involving partners at Precisa and the elevated price paid for the doses under contract … require deep investigation in both civil and criminal aspects,” wrote prosecutors.
In a separate document seen by Reuters, Senate investigators cited testimony from an unnamed public servant describing “abnormal pressures” from senior health ministry officials to reach a deal for the Bharat vaccine, branded Covaxin.
In March, Brazilian health regulator Anvisa rejected a request from the government to import doses of Covaxin, citing concerns about Bharat’s manufacturing standards, as well as a lack of safety data and other documentation.
This month, Anvisa’s board agreed to allow the import of just four million Covaxin doses for further study of its safety and effectiveness, but the Ministry of Health must first sign an agreement with the regulator on key conditions.
Brazil’s Bolsonaro fined for breaking COVID public health rules
Jair Bolsonaro faces mounting public pressure and a Senate inquiry into his handling of the coronavirus pandemic.
22 May 2021
Brazilians bang pots in protest as 2,500 more die of COVID-19
Almost 100,000 came down with the coronavirus and 2,507 died on Wednesday as president struggles to deal with pandemic.
3 Jun 2021
Bolsonaro: Aid to Brazil’s poor to rise 58% amid high food costs
Brazilian President Jair Bolsonaro announced the increase during a TV interview Tuesday.
16 Jun 2021
Brazil passes 500,000 COVID deaths as anti-gov’t protesters rally
Thousands protest against President Jair Bolsonaro’s pandemic response as Brazil passes another grim COVID milestone.
19 Jun 2021
Union Pacific and its labour unions sue each other over vaccine
Alibaba’s Jack Ma takes first trip abroad post China crackdown
Price pressures: Canada’s inflation hits 18-year high
With Ant Group being overhauled, its record IPO is in limbo
Russia hosts Taliban, calls for inclusive Afghan government
Stop being polite – Colin Powell was a killer
‘Detected and blocked’ Indian submarine incursion: Pakistan army
Facebook ‘planning to rebrand company’ with new name
Follow Al Jazeera English:
© 2021 Al Jazeera Media Network