People enjoy the last summer day in Ipanema beach, a day before all beaches get closed as a restrictive measure to contain the outbreak of COVID-19, in Rio de Janeiro, Brazil, Friday, March 19.
Brazil had a record 90,570 cases of coronavirus reported in the last 24 hours and 2,815 COVID-19 deaths, the second deadliest daily toll since the pandemic began a year ago, the Health Ministry said on Friday.
Brazil’s coronavirus death toll, nearly 300,000, is second only to the United States, and its health system is buckling under a record surge in cases. President Jair Bolsonaro, who has questioned the “rush” for vaccines, is under growing pressure to get a grip on an outbreak he once dubbed a “little flu.”
He has been criticized for a slow and patchy immunization program, which has led to a lack of vaccine supplies in Latin America’s biggest country. Earlier this month, his government asked the Chinese embassy to help secure 30 million doses from China to ensure its vaccine program does not grind to a halt.
Despite the United States agreeing this week to loan shots to Mexico and Canada, Brazil has not yet asked Washington for vaccine supplies, said the two sources, who asked not to be named due to political sensitivities.
U.S. President Joe Biden has come under pressure from countries around the world to share shots, particularly its stock of AstraZeneca vaccines, which are authorized for use elsewhere but not in the United States.
The AstraZeneca vaccine, which is the centerpiece of the Brazilian federal government’s vaccine plan, has full regulatory approval in Brazil, meaning it could likely be used immediately.