Amazon COVID-19 Variant Three Times More Contagious, Brazilian Health Minister Says

A COVID-19 variant identified in the Amazon in Brazil may be three times more contagious, Health Minister Eduardo Pazuello said on Feb. 11 during a Senate hearing.

However, Pazuella also claimed that early analysis showed that vaccines are still effective against the Amazon variant, reassuring the Senate that the situation is under control amid a second wave of COVID-19 cases.

“We had clear news from the analysis that the vaccines still have an effect against this variant. But it is more contagious. By our analysis, it is three time more contagious,” Pazuello said, without providing evidence or further explaining how the efficacy of the vaccines against the variant was analyzed.

Public health research institution Fiocruz, which is affiliated with the Brazilian health ministry, said that it is studying the efficacy of the AstraZeneca-Oxford vaccine against the Amazon variant and is awaiting results after sending samples to Oxford.

Pazuella also said that Brazil will vaccinate half of its eligible population for the vaccine by June. He added that the rest will be vaccinated by the end of the year.

Brazil began its vaccination campaigns three weeks ago using vaccines developed by AstraZeneca-Oxford and Sinovac Biotech.

The Butantan Institute in Sao Paulo stated that it started studying the Amazon variant that has been hitting the city of Manaus hard. But the institute also said that arriving at a conclusion would take two weeks.

According to data from Johns Hopkins University, Brazil has recorded 9,713,909 cases, placing third on the highest number of COVID-19 cases worldwide, coming after the United States and India.

Data also showed that Brazil has recorded 236,201 deaths caused by the pandemic, the second highest number of deaths in the world, coming after the U.S.

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