Brazil health minister seek deal for earlier delivery of 20 million U.S. vaccines

FILE PHOTO: Brazil's Minister of Health, Marcelo Queiroga, gives a press conference on the Planalto Palace in Brasilia
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BRASÍLIA (Reuters) -Brazilian Health Minister Marcelo Queiroga said on Monday that he was pushing Brazilian and U.S. diplomats to get an earlier delivery of 20 million doses of coronavirus vaccines from the United States to help slow the country's raging pandemic.

Speaking with senators in Brasilia, Queiroga said he would be meeting with U.S. Ambassador Todd Chapman on Tuesday to seek a breakthrough in getting access as soon as possible to the Pfizer Inc/BioNTech vaccine, and had already discussed the issue with Brazil's top diplomat in Washington, Nestor Forster.

Brazil is facing the worst stage of its pandemic, hurt by a lack of federal restrictions on social distancing and other measures, an infectious new variant, and a patchy vaccine rollout.

Brazil has a 100-million dose deal with Pfizer for 2021, but delivery is only scheduled to begin in May with 2 million shots.

"We are very committed to getting an earlier delivery, an exchange, because the Americans are not going to release vaccines until they have vaccinated their entire population, but they are willing to make an exchange," Queiroga said.

The plan, as explained by Queiroga, would not see the United States yield its own vaccine allotment to Brazil, but would allow Latin America's biggest country to take its place in line and get access to shots quicker.

U.S. President Joe Biden is under pressure from countries to share vaccines, especially its AstraZeneca vaccine stock, which is authorized for use in Brazil but not in the United States.

Both the AstraZeneca and Pfizer vaccines are fully approved for use in Brazil, which means that they could be used immediately.

(Reporting by Maria Carolina MarcelloWriting by Ana ManoEditing by Chris Reese and Rosalba O'Brien)