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Current Affairs

Controversy in Brazil over Bharat Biotech vaccines

Date: 30 June 2021 Tags: Miscellaneous

Issue

Brazilian President Jair Bolsonaro has been mired in controversy over buying Bharat Biotech’s    Covaxin for 1.6 billion Reais.

 

Background

President Bolsonaro had won election on an anti-graft agenda and his recent steps have been criticised widely.

 

Details

  • Several whistle-blowers have appeared before a Parliamentary panel and blamed the President and his coalition chief for buying the vaccine at a higher price.

  • The allegations are made that the price decided for the vaccine was higher than those available in the market and the drug did not even have regulatory approval in the country.

  • The Parliamentary panel was formed in April and is investigating the misgovernance by the authorities that led to turmoil in the country.

  • The situation had gained tremendous coverage in the press with major newspapers carrying the issue on headlines. The whole affair is being dubbed as #CovaxinGate.

 

The issue

  • A health ministry official claimed to have got pressure from higher officials regarding purchase of the drug, which had not yet received nod in the country.

  • The official claimed that the company had quoted $1.34 per dose but the approval from higher officials was for $15 per dose, which was lower than that of Pfizer.

  • It is alleged that a key ally of Bolsonaro in the lower house was involved in the deal. The whistle-blowers have asked for protection.

  • Bharat Biotech has refuted its involvement in the affair. They claim that the deal was stuck by their international marketing partner, Madison Biotech.

 

Response by Bolsonaro

  • President Bolsonaro has denied any involvement of him or his allies in corruption. They have denied making payment to Bharat Biotech for the vaccines and no vaccines have arrived.

  • Brazil is set for election next year. President Bolsonaro’s prospects have weakened after this issue and also crisis mismanagement during the pandemic. He is lagging behind Luiz Inacio Lula Da Silva.