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Brazil hopes veterinary facilities can help increase production of COVID-19 vaccines

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SAO PAULO (Reuters) – Brazil hopes to use veterinary equipment to increase production of COVID-19 vaccines, authorities said on Saturday as the country accounts for the worst number of daily deaths in the world and its vaccination efforts remain.

Brazil already makes or completes coronavirus vaccines at its two major public health institutes, although these efforts have not been enough to supply Latin America’s largest country.

Marcelo Queiroga, Brazil’s fourth health minister since the pandemic began, said he hoped to include veterinary structures that make vaccines for pets.

This is not only to supply the domestic market and increase our capacity, but also that Brazil, as a leader in Latin America, can supply its vaccines to other countries, Queiroga told reporters.

Brazil President Jair Bolsonaro has been widely criticized for his treatment of the pandemic, for minimizing the severity of the virus, for undermining social distancing efforts and blockages. As Brazil has managed to have the worst number of COVID-19 deaths in the world, Bolsonaro is making a bigger push to secure vaccines, including the United States’ demand for reserve doses.

The Brazils Fiocruz Institute has a partnership with AstraZeneca Plc to produce its vaccine, while the Butantan Institute has a similar partnership with Chinas Sinovac Biotech to make CoronaVac.

Butantan has also separately developed a vaccine of its own which is undergoing initial phase studies.

Queiroga did not go into specifics, such as the capacity of veterinary facilities and whether any initiative would require pharmaceutical companies to relinquish intellectual property rights.

On Saturday, Brazil recorded 1,987 new deaths from COVID-19, the health ministry said, bringing the total to 330,193. The death toll now stands at 330,193. Cases increased by 43,515, the ministry said, and now totaled 12,953,597.

Reporting by Marcelo Rochabrun; Edited by Daniel Wallis and Richard Chang

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