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Brazil to start testing Oxford vaccine against the coronavirus this month

SAO PAULO, June 3 (Reuters) - Brazil this month will start testing an experimental vaccine against the novel coronavirus being developed by researchers at the University of Oxford and AstraZeneca Plc, Brazil’s health surveillance agency Anvisa and the Federal University of Sao Paulo (Unifesp) said.

Anvisa authorized the testing late on Tuesday. Some 2,000 people will participate in the trial, which will be conducted with the support of the Health Ministry, Unifesp said.

“The most important thing is to carry out this stage of the study now, when the epidemiological curve is still rising and the results may be more assertive,” said Lily Yin Weckx, coordinator of the Reference Center for Special Immunobiologicals (CRIE) at Unifesp.

Developers and researchers are looking to COVID-19 hotspots, such as Latin America and Africa, where the illness is still on the rise, to test experimental vaccines as cases wane in Europe and elsewhere.

There are currently no approved vaccines to prevent infection with the coronavirus that causes COVID-19. The virus has infected more than 6.4 million people and killed over 380,000 worldwide.

Weckx is leading the study in Brazil, Unifesp said in a statement.

For testing in Sao Paulo, Brazil’s largest state and the epicenter of the coronavirus outbreak in Latin America, 1,000 volunteers will be selected. The study is looking for people highly exposed to the coronavirus but who were not yet infected.

Anvisa said the testing request in Brazil was filed by the local unit of AstraZeneca.

Reporting by Eduardo Simões; Writing by Gabriela Mello; Editing by Bill Berkrot

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