Brazil’s health ministry has decided to suspend its vaccine contract worth $324 million with Indian vaccine maker Bharat Biotech following allegations of corruption in the deal. The deal, under which Bharat Biotech was supposed to supply 20 million doses of its COVID-19 vaccine named Covaxin, has become highly controversial after a whistleblower in the country’s health ministry raised red flags.
According to Brazil’s health minister Marcelo Queiroga, the decision has been taken after receiving guidance from the country’s Comptroller General, the CGU. Speaking at a press conference, Marcelo informed that in its preliminary analysis, the CGU did not find any wrongdoing in the contract made with Bharat Biotech. However, the deal has been suspended to ensure a deeper probe into the contract, he added.
The whistleblower, Luis Ricardo Miranda, has claimed that he had warned Brazil’s President Jair Bolsonaro about the suspicious deal but that no investigation took place. The whistleblower, along with his brother Congressman Luis Miranda, attended the Senate commission inquiry on Friday which is investigating the vaccine procurement of the Bolsonaro government.
Meanwhile, a probe has also been launched in the matter by the federal prosecutors of the country. Key points of contention regarding the Covaxin deal include- higher price as compared to Pfizer vaccine, pending approval from regulators and the quick time in which the contract was finalised.