Brazil suspends Covaxin vaccine deal amid graft probe
New Delhi, June 30: Brazil has suspended a USD 324 million contract to buy 20 million doses of Bharat Biotech's Covaxin, amid a probe into accusations of irregularities against President Jair Bolsonaro.
Making the announcement, the head of the Federal Comptroller General (CGU) Wagner Rosario said that the government is "temporarily suspending" the Covaxin contract, adding his office will evaluate the process by which it was signed.
Bolsonaro, whose popularity has faded as Brazil's COVID-19 death toll climbed past 500,000, has denied any wrongdoing, saying on Monday he was not aware of any irregularities.
"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," the ministry said in a statement.
The Health Ministry signed a contract for 20 million Covaxin doses in February. However, the government hadn't yet made any payments nor were any vaccines provided due to obstacles in the health regulator''s approval process.
Bharat Biotech has denied any allegation of wrongdoing with respect to vaccine supply, saying in an emailed statement that it adheres to the highest standards of compliance. The company''s press representative didn''t respond when asked why a payment would be routed through a Singapore-based company.
The case has galvanized Bolsonaro''s opponents and prompted protest organizers to move up their next nationwide demonstration to Saturday. The percentage of people rating Bolsonaro''s government bad or terrible has reached an all-time high, according to pollster Datafolha.