A nurse has become the first person in Brazil to receive a coronavirus jab just hours after the country’s health regulator approved two vaccines.
Monica Calazans, 54, who works on the coronavirus frontline, was vaccinated in a ceremony in Sao Paulo.
The rollout of the vaccines made by Sinovac and AstraZeneca comes after months of delay and political disputes over the immunisation programme.
Brazil currently has six million doses of Sinovac’s CoronaVac vaccine ready to distribute in the next few days, and is awaiting the arrival of another two million doses of the AstraZeneca/Oxford University jab.
“This is good news for Brazil, but six million doses are still very few,” said Ethel Maciel, an epidemiologist at the Federal University of Espirito Santo.
“It will not allow the entire population at risk to be fully immunised, nor is it clear how quickly the country will obtain more vaccines.”
Vaccination in Brazil is beginning later than neighbours such as Argentina and Chile despite a robust public health system and decades of experience with immunisation campaigns.
The process to present and approve the COVID-19 vaccines was fraught with conflict, as allies of President Jair Bolsonaro sought to cast doubt on the efficacy of the Sinovac shot which had been backed by his political rival, Sao Paulo state’s governor Joao Doria.
Health professionals on the frontline against coronavirus will be the first to receive the jabs.
It will then be extended to others including the indigenous population, people over 60 years of age and people with pre-existing conditions.
The South American country has now registered 8,455,059 cases since the pandemic began.
Its death toll has risen to 209,296 meaning only the US has suffered more fatalities, according to the Johns Hopkins University.