Tampa Bay Times

Brazil’s virus outlook darkens amid vaccine supply trouble

- BY DIANE JEANTET AND DAVID BILLER

RIO DE JANEIRO — April is shaping up to be Brazil’s darkest month yet in the pandemic, with hospitals struggling with a crush of patients, deaths on track for record highs and few signs of a reprieve from a troubled vaccinatio­n program in Latin America’s largest nation.

The Health Ministry has cut its outlook for vaccine supplies in April three times already, to half their initial level, and the country’s two biggest laboratori­es are facing supply constraint­s.

The delays also mean tens of thousands more deaths as the particular­ly contagious P.1 variant of COVID19 sweeps Brazil. It has recorded about 350,000 of the 2.9 million virus deaths worldwide, behind only the U.S. toll of over 560,000.

Brazil’s seven-day rolling average has increased to 2,820 deaths per day, compared with the global average of 10,608 per day, according to data through April 8 from Johns Hopkins University.

The death toll is forecast to continue rising in the next two weeks to an average of nearly 3,500 per day before receding, according to the University of Washington’s Institute for Health Metrics and Evaluation.

Public health experts blame President Jair Bolsonaro for refusing to enact strict measures to halt infections and for clashing with governors and mayors who did.

Failure to control the spread has been compounded by the Health Ministry betting big on a single vaccine, AstraZenec­a, then buying only one backup, the Chinese-manufactur­ed CoronaVac, after supply problems emerged. Authoritie­s ignored other producers and squandered opportunit­ies until it was too late to get large quantities of vaccine for the first half of 2021.

For months, Bolsonaro’s administra­tion ignored pleas to sign more than one contract for vaccines. The president publicly questioned the reliabilit­y of other shots and scoffed at contractua­l terms, suggesting that recipients of the Pfizer vaccine would have no legal recourse were they to transform into alligators. He only recently said he might get a shot himself.

 ?? ERALDO PERES | Associated Press ?? A Brazilian medic administer­s a dose of China’s Sinovac vaccine from the door of her vehicle on March 15.
ERALDO PERES | Associated Press A Brazilian medic administer­s a dose of China’s Sinovac vaccine from the door of her vehicle on March 15.

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