Brazil has granted approval to AstraZeneca and Chinese firm Sinovac Biotech’s Covid-19 vaccines for emergency use, allowing the country to begin inoculation as cases surge.

Brazilian health regulator Anvisa approved the vaccines citing a rise in cases, as well as the absence of options for Covid-19 treatment, Bloomberg reported.

Anvisa director Meiruze Freitas said that even though government technicians said they require more information about the vaccine, its benefits surpass the risks.

The media company quoted Freitas as saying: “We must continue monitoring the vaccines to capture adverse effects that were perhaps not seen in trials.”

Notably, Sao Paulo started inoculating people minutes after Anvisa gave approval.

Health Minister Eduardo Pazuello said in a press meet in Rio de Janeiro that the government would not do a ‘photo op’ vaccination.

Pazuello added that after a ‘symbolic delivery’ of vaccines to states on 18 January, the vaccination programme will begin on 20 January with delivery based on locations which are at higher risk, in a bid to provide more doses.

Initially, the elderly, Brazil’s local population and healthcare staff will receive the vaccines.

In a separate development, Anvisa sought additional data on Russia’s Covid-19 vaccine, Sputnik V, before considering its approval for emergency use.

The documents backing drugmaker Uniao Quimica’s application for emergency use of the vaccine said that it failed to meet minimum criteria, Reuters reported Brazil’s health regulator as saying.

According to the Health Ministry’s website, the request failed to deliver required assurances on Phase III clinical trials and issues related to the vaccine manufacturing.

In November, Sinovac announced plans to resume the Phase III trial of the Inactivated Covid-19 vaccine, CoronaVaC, after Anvisa authorised its resumption.