Indian pharma firm says no wrongdoing as Brazil suspends vaccine deal

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A health worker holds a vial of AstraZeneca's Coronavirus vaccine at the vaccination centre at Messe Dresden convention centre during a vaccination campaign. Photo: Robert Michael/dpa-Zentralbild/dpa
A health worker holds a vial of AstraZeneca's Coronavirus vaccine at the vaccination centre at Messe Dresden convention centre during a vaccination campaign. Photo: Robert Michael/dpa-Zentralbild/dpa

Indian pharmaceutical company Bharat Biotech Wednesday denied any irregularities in a controversy-hit contract to supply its Covid-19 vaccine to Brazil.

The Hyderabad-based firm’s reaction came a day after Brazil’s Health Ministry decided to suspend the 324-million-dollar contract for 20 million doses of its Covaxin.

The suspension was in order to give time for in-depth investigations, the ministry said. No irregularities had however emerged in a preliminary analysis by the country’s federal auditor CGU, the Brazilian Health Ministry said in a series of posts on Twitter.

The controversy has also reached the office of Brazilian President Jair Bolsonaro, with one whistle-blower saying that he had alerted the president’s office to the issue.

The alleged irregularities relate to high prices, rapid negotiations and pending regulatory approvals, NDTV news channel reported.

Bharat Biotech said it followed a step-by-step approach in meetings with Brazil’s Ministry of Health since November 2020 on contracts and regulatory approval, which it received on June 4.

The Indian company said had not received any advance payments nor had it supplied any vaccines to the Brazilian Health Ministry.

Covaxin has been jointly developed by Bharat Biotech and India’s state-run Indian Council for Medical Research. It has been widely used in India’s vaccination programme.

India and Brazil have the largest Covid-19 caseloads after the United States and both have been trying to speed up vaccinations amid deadly waves of the pandemic.

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