After a mysterious resurgent wave of COVID-19 hit the Brazilian city of Manaus, Brazilian Health Minister Eduardo Pazuello has tried to assure legislators that while the newly identified Manaus variant is more contagious, it may still be eliminated to existing vaccines.
"Thank God, we had clear news from the analysis that the vaccines still have an effect against this variant," Pazuello was quoted by Al Jazeera as saying. "But it is more contagious. By our analysis, it is three-time more contagious."
However, the minister failed to provide any backing for his claims and the Butantan Institute in Sao Paulo has only just announced further studies into the mutated virus. Brazil is also implementing a rollout of two vaccines, China's Sinovac Biotech and Oxford-AstraZeneca although it is as yet unknown how these will work against the Manaus virus.
Brazilian Prime Minister Jay Bolsonaro has already faced calls for an inquiry into the mismanagement of the Manaus situation after the city's hospitals ran out of oxygen in January and the government had to fly extra supplies in to stop patients suffocating to death. The new, highly transmissible virus variant has already been blamed for stretching healthcare capacity to its limits.
Pazuello also assured the Senate that Brazil would vaccinate half its population by the end of the year. However, the government has already come under fire for botching its vaccine rollout response despite a massive healthcare infrastructure due in part to President Jay Bolsonaro's vaccine scepticism as well as lack of planning.
As of February 1, only 0.5% of the population had even received a single dose of the vaccines available.