Sao Paulo expects Brazil regulator to OK Sinovac COVID-19 vaccine by January

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FILE PHOTO: Media tour at Chinese vaccine maker Sinovac Biotech in Beijing

SAO PAULO (Reuters) - São Paulo Health Secretary Jean Gorinchteyn said on Monday he expects Brazil's regulator to approve the use of a COVID-19 vaccine developed by China's Sinovac by January.

The Butantan biomedical research institute that is running the late-stage trials of the Sinovac vaccine in Brazil has now reached the minimum number of infected cases to register the vaccine, Gorinchteyn said at a news briefing.

João Gabbardo, head of the Sao Paulo's COVID-19 contingency committee, said at the same event that he expects China's health regulator to approve Sinovac's CoronaVac in December, which could hasten approval in Brazil.

The Sinovac vaccine has been promoted by Sao Paulo Governor João Doria, a move which has put him at odds with President Jair Bolsonaro who is a vocal China skeptic.

Bolsonaro has attacked the Chinese vaccine for lacking credibility and it remains unclear whether the federal government will include it in its national inoculation program.

Dimas Covas, director of Butantan, said on Monday that Brazil's health ministry now has all the information needed to include Coronavac in the national program.

The ministry said on Sunday it planned to sign non-binding letters of intent to buy vaccines from Pfizer Inc, India's Bharat Biotech, the Russian Direct Investment Fund, Moderna Inc and Janssen, a unit of Johnson & Johnson, but made no mention of Sinovac's candidate.

(Reporting by Eduardo Simoes and Anthony Boadle, writing by Stephen Eisenhammer; Editing by Bernadette Baum)