On Wednesday, Brazil‘s Ministry of Health announced that a third booster shot of the COVID-19 vaccine will be made available to immunosuppressed people over 70 years old, starting in the second half of September. This third dose will preferably be from Pfizer/BioNTech, and, secondly, Janssen or Oxford/AstraZeneca.
In addition, starting in September Brazil will anticipate the interval between the first and second dose of Pfizer and AstraZeneca vaccines, from the current 12 weeks to 8 weeks.
Both measures are a response to the rise in COVID-19 cases caused mainly by variants such as gamma (Brazilian) and delta (Indian). The latter already account for most of the infections in Rio de Janeiro, today the epicenter of the disease in Brazil.
The ministry did not mention CoronaVac, a Covid-19 vaccine from the Chinese laboratory Sinovac that is being bottled in Brazil by the Butantan Institute, linked to the government of the State of São Paulo.
As pointed out by Reuters, CoronaVac, which kicked off the vaccination campaign against COVID-19 in Brazil in January, is frequently attacked by President Jair Bolsonaro, even without scientific basis. Bolsonaro is a political enemy of the governor of São Paulo, João Doria.
“These decisions were taken together with Conass (the National Council of Health Secretaries), Conasems (the National Council of Municipal Health Secretaries), and the Technical Advisory Chamber on Immunization COVID-19 (Cetai) of our ministry,” said the Brazilian Health Ministry in a statement.
The second half of September was chosen as the date for the start of the vaccine boost because it is also when the Brazilian government hopes to have vaccinated the entire population of the country with at least one dose. Until Tuesday, according to data from the Ministry of Health, 123.9 million Brazilians had received the first dose of the vaccine against the disease (about 59% of adults), while 55.7 million (or 26.5% of adults ) were fully immunized.