Brazil suspends Covaxin deal as Bolsonaro faces graft charges
Brazil's health minister has announced the suspension of a $324 million contract with an Indian firm for made in India vaccine against the coronavirus disease (Covid-19) which has seen president Jair Bolsonaro mired in accusations of irregularities.
The minister, Marcelo Queiroga, made the announcement about Covaxin at a press conference, following the guidance of the federal Comptroller General of the Union (CGU). Queiroga further said his team would probe the allegations during the period of the suspension of the contract.
"According to the preliminary analysis of the CGU, there are no irregularities in the contract, but for compliance, the health ministry chose to suspend the contract," a statement from the ministry read.
The allegations against Bolsonaro, who is facing mounting pressure and protests at home for his handling of the Covid-19 pandemic, became known after whistleblowers went public with the alleged irregularities. An official of the health ministry said he, too, alerted the president about his concerns.
Brazil signed a deal with India's Bharat Biotech International Limited for 20 million doses of its anti-Covid vaccine Covaxin. But federal prosecutors have now opened an investigation into the deal, citing comparatively high prices, "quick talks," and pending regulatory approvals as red flags. The deal is also under the scanner of a Senate panel probing the federal government's handling of the pandemic.
Additionally, a leading opposition member on the Senate panel, Senator Randolfe Rodrigues, on Monday filed a formal complaint against Bolsonaro at the Supreme Court, seeking a probe into the "serious allegations" by the court. Bolsnaro, who has denied any wrongdoing, faces a presidential election next year.
According to Johns Hopkins University, Brazil's cumulative Covid-19 infection tally stands at over 18.5 million, the third-highest globally behind the infection tallies of the United States and India respectively. The virus has till now claimed more than 510,000 lives in the South American nation, the Johns Hopkins' dashboard shows; this is the second-highest coronavirus-related death toll in the world after that of the United States (604,474). Also, the US and Brazil are the only two countries with a Covid-19 death toll exceeding 500,000.