Bharat Biotech ends its Brazil agreement. What went wrong?
Bharat Biotech on Friday announced the termination its agreement with two foreign firms for the supply of COVAXIN to Brazil. Following that, Brazil canceled the proposed clinical trails of the vaccine in that country. These are the latest developments in a series of reactions after the Brazilian government suspended the $324 million deal with the Indian firm amid corruption allegations. What exactly went wrong?
What was the deal all about?
In November last year, Bharat Biotech entered into an agreement with Precisa Medicamentos and Envixia Pharmaceuticals LLC for the licensing, distribution, and clinical trials of COVAXIN in Brazil. Precisa is based in Brazil while Envixia is registered in Dubai, UAE. Under the deal worth $324 million, Bharat Biotech was supposed to export 20 million doses of the Indian-made vaccine to the South American country.
What are the allegations about the deal?
The Brazilian government, led by President Jair Bolsonaro, has been facing allegations of corruption connected to this deal. Officials from the country's Health Department alleged that they were under pressure from higher authorities to clear the deal, which appeared suspicious to them. It was also alleged the deal was being pursued even though Pfizer and other vaccines were available at cheaper rates than COVAXIN.
What does the Brazilian government say?
The sensational corruption allegations have dominated the Brazilian news media over the past few weeks and a federal investigation is currently underway into the matter there. Bolsonaro and his aides, however, have denied any wrongdoing in the deal. "We didn't spend one cent on COVAXIN. We didn't receive one dose of COVAXIN. What sort of corruption is this?" Bolsonaro had earlier said.
What does Bharat Biotech say?
Bharat Biotech, which has been credited and praised in India for developing the country's first indigenous coronavirus jab, has also rubbished the allegations of corruption. "We strongly refute and deny any kind of allegation or implication of any wrongdoing whatsoever with respect to the supply of COVAXIN," the company had said in a statement last month as the controversy unfolded.
What happens to COVAXIN's approval in Brazil now?
Bharat Biotech has said that despite the deal suspension, it will continue to work with the Brazilian health regulator to complete the regulatory approval process in the country. "Based on the communication made by Bharat Biotech, ANVISA will reassess the processes underway at the agency and adopt the relevant measures," Brazil's health regulator has said in a statement.