India’s Bharat Biotech Terminates COVID-19 Vaccine Deal with Brazil Amid Kickback Allegations
© Photo : Wikipedia/Pravbv Bharat Biotech campus
© Photo : Wikipedia/Pravbv
Covaxin, jointly developed by Bharat Biotech and the state-funded Indian Council of Medical Research, was granted an import licence by Brazilian health regulator Anvisa in June this year. Earlier this month, the Brazilian parliamentary commission of inquiry started probing the transaction between Indian firm and India-Brazil Chamber of Commerce.
India’s vaccine manufacturer Bharat Biotech has announced that it has ended its agreement with Brazil's Precisa Medicamentos to supply 20 million doses of its COVID-19 vaccine Covaxin. The Indian pharmaceutical firm has conveyed to the Brazilian firm that the memorandum of understanding between the two parties, signed in November 2020, is no longer valid.
“The company also stresses that all its actions, including its global dealings, are done in accordance with local laws,” Bharat Biotech announced in a statement on 23 July, providing no further details.
The decision has been taken by the Indian company after Brazilian parliamentary commission of inquiry has started the probe against the transaction of $200,000 between the Indian firm’s representative and the India-Brazil Chamber of Commerce (IBCC) which allegedly took place few days ahead of signing of a $324 million deal in February this year.
On Friday, India’s Ministry of Health & Family Welfare also informed parliamentarians that it is aware of media reports of some controversy around contracts and regulatory approvals for supply of Covaxin to Brazil.
“This however relates exclusively to an agreement between a commercial entity i.e. M/s Bharat Biotech and a foreign country,” the Indian health ministry said, indicating no role of the government in the deal.
Bharat Biotech has been rejecting the kickback charges that erupted after a Brazilian whistleblower Luis Ricardo Miranda, head of import of the Department of Health Logistics, raised the issue before the country’s health ministry earlier this year.
Brazilian federal prosecutors opened a probe into the deal, citing comparatively high prices, suspiciously quick talks, and pending regulatory approvals as red flags.
“The pricing of Covaxin has been clearly established between $15 and $20 per dose for supplies to governments outside India. The pricing for Brazil has also been indicated at $15 per dose,” the Hyderabad-based company said in a statement last month.
Meanwhile, the number of confirmed COVID-19 cases in Brazil has increased by 49,757 on Thursday, bringing the total number to 19,523,711. Brazil President Jair Bolsonaro has been heavily criticised for his handling of the pandemic, including the lack of a coordinated national response.