By Rodrigo Viga Gaier
RIO DE JANEIRO (Reuters) - Power outages in Rio de Janeiro may have spoiled hundreds of doses of COVID-19 vaccines, city health officials told Reuters on Friday, in a fresh setback for Brazil's hamstrung immunization efforts.
Up to 720 doses of the CoronaVac vaccine developed by China's Sinovac Biotech may need to be thrown out after a power outage at the federal hospital in the city's Bonsucesso neighborhood left them stored at an inappropriate temperature.
The director of the hospital has been dismissed, according to the government's official gazette, as municipal health officials analyze whether any of the doses can still be used.
"We are aware of this, and it is something of concern. We are drafting a resolution to reinforce rules and protocols," Rio State Health Secretary Carlos Alberto Chaves told Reuters.
He noted that the state government receives the vaccines and distributes them to municipalities, which are responsible for administering the shots.
Brazil is predominantly reliant on CoronaVac as it awaits a shipment of active ingredients from China needed to finish and distribute doses of the AstraZeneca vaccine locally.
In the meantime, the country has received 2 million ready-to-use AstraZeneca shots until the active ingredient arrives — not enough to cover 1% of Brazil's 210 million population.
Critics say the slow vaccine rollout is the latest in a long line of fumblings that have blighted Brazil with the worst coronavirus death toll outside the United States.
President Jair Bolsonaro, who says he will not take any COVID-19 shot, on Thursday vowed to quickly inoculate all Brazilians, tempering his tone after his support fell due to a patchy vaccine rollout and a brutal second wave of infections.
(Reporting by Rodrigo Viga Gaier; Writing by Jamie McGeever; Editing by Brad Haynes and Alistair Bell)