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Photo: Jorge Bernal/Getty Images

Brazilian health regulators said this week they will not recommend importing Russia's Sputnik V vaccine, citing unknowns and safety concerns about the shot's development and manufacturing.

The big picture: Brazil has seen a recent surge in COVID-related cases and deaths, driven by relaxed mitigation measures and a more contagious local variant that has overwhelmed the country's health system. To date, roughly 6% of Brazil's population has been inoculated against the coronavirus, Bloomberg reports.

  • The rejection also sets back Russia’s effort to build diplomatic relations backed by adoption of its vaccine.

The state of play: The Brazilian health authority, Anvisa, cited problems with the clinical studies and insufficient data as its reasons for rejecting the vaccine. All five of Anvisa's directors voted against importing the Russian shot.

Context: Sputnik V demonstrated 91.6% efficacy against COVID-19, according to a peer-reviewed analysis of a large clinical trial published in the medical journal The Lancet in February.

  • Sputnik V is under review by the European Union, and approved in 61 countries, per Bloomberg.

What they're saying: Anvisa said it found “worrying pieces of information” about the vaccine's manufacturing process. “The cells where adenoviruses are produced for the development of the vaccine allow their replication,” the regulatory agency added, saying that could lead to new infections, or even deaths.

  • The other side: Sputnik's developers said in a statement that they addressed all the technical issues at a meeting with Anvisa “to demonstrate that these allegations have no scientific grounds and cannot be treated seriously in the scientific community and among international regulators.”
  • “We need additional information on what this lack (of data) means, because there’s already more than enough data. If some data is lacking, it will be provided,” the Kremlin’s spokesperson Dmitry Peskov told reporters on Tuesday.
  • A tweet from the official Sputnik Twitter account said Brazil's decision “was of a political nature” and had “nothing to do with access to information or science,” alleging the U.S. had convinced Brazil to deny approval.

Go deeper

Caitlin Owens, author of Vitals
Apr 27, 2021 - Health

Political leanings sway seniors' vaccine enthusiasm

Expand chart
Data: Axios/Ipsos Poll; Chart: Michelle McGhee/Axios

Seniors are more enthusiastic about the coronavirus vaccines than younger Americans, but even that high-risk population is still subject to some partisan divides, according to Axios-Ipsos polling over the last several months.

The big picture: In the most recent waves of our Axios-Ipsos survey, 85% of seniors said they had already been vaccinated, or were likely to get vaccinated.

Apr 27, 2021 - Health

Employers crafting post-COVID benefits show new commitment to mental health

Illustration: Annelise Capossela/Axios

Employers are taking a harder look at mental health benefits and employee resource groups as they design their post-COVID benefits packages, according to a new survey by Willis Towers Watson.

Details: 51% of employers said mental health is among their top three benefit priorities; and 33% said the same for employee resource groups.

Apr 27, 2021 - Health

Insurers quietly reinstate charges for COVID-19 treatment

Illustration: Annelise Capossela/Axios

Several big health insurers have quietly begun charging patients for their COVID-19 treatment, Kaiser Health News reports.

Why it matters: Insurers waived most cost-sharing for coronavirus treatments last year, but those waivers are now expiring. And the costs for people who end up in the hospital "could be substantial," per KHN.