Brazil President Jair Bolsonaro on Thursday, 24 June, stated that Brazil never paid for or received any Covaxin dose developed by Bharat Biotech, in response to allegations of irregularities in a deal that is under investigation.
The statement comes in the wake of an ongoing investigation into a $320 million contract between drugmaker Bharat Biotech and the Brazil government.
“We didn’t spend one cent on Covaxin. We didn’t receive one dose of Covaxin. What sort of corruption is this?” Bolsonaro said.
Brazilian Health Ministry official, Luís Ricardo Miranda on Wednesday, 23 June, said that he had apprised President Bolsonaro of the internal pressure he was encountering to buy Covaxin.
According to a Reuters report, Miranda testified during a Senate probe that he was being coerced by Alex Lial Marinho, an associate of one of Bolsonaro's closest aides, said former Health Minister Eduardo Pazuello.
The president pledged to take action if any corruption was discovered in his government. Bolsonaro said the price for the Bharat vaccines was broadly in line with other countries.
The Bharat Biotech Contract Probe
Brazil federal prosecutors have initiated an investigation into a contract of $320 million between the Brazil government and Bharat Biotech for 20 million doses of Covaxin.
Pending regulatory approvals, steep prices, and hastened negotiations in relation to the deal have been stipulated as the reasons behind the need for scrutiny over the contract solemnised in February.
In addition to the examination by the prosecutor-general’s office, the Bharat Biotech deal has also invited inspection from a Brazilian Senate.