India's Bharat Biotech to supply its COVID-19 vaccine to Brazil

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A man rides his motorbike past a parked bus of India's biotechnology company Bharat Biotech outside its office in Hyderabad

NEW DELHI (Reuters) - India's Bharat Biotech has signed an agreement with a medicine distributor to supply its COVID-19 vaccine to Brazil, it said on Tuesday, even as the shot's emergency use approval in its home country has faced criticism.

India's drug regulator has given emergency use approval to Bharat Biotech's COVAXIN, as well as to AstraZeneca and Oxford University's Covishield vaccine, which is being produced by the Serum Institute of India.

But health experts and opposition lawmakers have criticised approval of COVAXIN due to a lack of efficacy data, which the manufacturer is still conducting.

Bharat Biotech said it has signed an agreement with a Brazil-based pharmaceutical seller, Precisa Medicamentos, to supply COVAXIN.

"It is understood between both parties that supplies of COVAXIN (are) to be prioritised for the public market, through a direct procurement by the government of Brazil," the Indian company said in a statement.

Criticism of India's approval of the vaccine has grown after news that a regulatory panel approved the shot just one day after asking the vaccine maker for more evidence it would work.

Bharat Biotech, which developed COVAXIN with the Indian Council of Medical Research (ICMR), said supplies to the private market would depend on authorization from the Brazilian regulatory authority.

Brazil has registered over 8 million cases of the virus since the pandemic began, while the official death toll has risen over 203,000, the world's second-deadliest coronavirus outbreak.

Brazil has signed agreements to receive other COVID-19 vaccines. Authorities there are facing growing pressure to speed up the vaccine rollout, which is lagging regional peers. Mexico, Chile and Argentina have already begun immunizations.

(Reporting by Aftab Ahmed; Editing by Susan Fenton)