Brazil's Sao Paulo likely to start COVID-19 immunization in December

FILE PHOTO: Outbreak of the coronavirus disease (COVID-19) in Brazil, in Porto Alegre

By Eduardo Simões

SAO PAULO (Reuters) - The governor of Brazil's São Paulo state, João Doria, said on Wednesday the state is likely to start to immunize its population with China's Sinovac vaccine for COVID-19 in mid-December, pending regulatory approval.

Brazil has the third-highest number of cases of coronavirus in the world, leading vaccine makers to seek out South America's largest country to test their candidates.

São Paulo is one of the sites of Phase III clinical trials for the Sinovac vaccine conducted by the state's Butantan Institute, a leading biomedical research center.

Doria told a news conference 5 million doses of the vaccine are expected to arrive in São Paulo, the country's most populous state, in October. The state has a deal with Sinovac for 60 million doses to be delivered by the end of February, which Doria said is enough to vaccinate the state's entire population.

Sinovac's Latin America head, Xing Han, said the results of the Phase III trials should be out in two months.

Brazilian state governments have been aggressive in courting vaccine makers, with Bahia and Parana states striking deals to test and buy or produce the Russian Sputnik 5 vaccine.

Pfizer Inc and partner BioNTech received Brazilian regulatory approval last week to expand trials of their vaccine in São Paulo and Bahia states.

The vaccine developed by AstraZeneca and University of Oxford has a production and distribution deal with the federal biomedical research institute Fiocruz and it is also being tested in Brazil by the federal university of Sao Paulo.

(Reporting by Eduardo Simoes in Sao Paulo, Writing by Carolina Mandl and Jake Spring; Editing by Stephen Eisenhammer and Matthew Lewis)