China's CanSino cuts ties with Brazil firm, halting vaccine licensing

BRASILIA, June 29 (Reuters) - Brazilian health regulator Anvisa has canceled a request for emergency use authorization for the COVID-19 vaccine developed by China’s CanSino Biologics Inc after the laboratory cut ties with its Brazilian representative.

The move follows a wave of scrutiny in Brazil of vaccine contracts negotiated by intermediaries, a common local practice.

Federal prosecutors and Senate investigators are probing a deal for an Indian vaccine, with one senator accusing President Jair Bolsonaro on Monday of turning a blind eye to alleged irregularities. The president and companies involved in those talks have denied any wrongdoing.

CanSino and its former Brazilian representative, Belcher Farmaceutica Ltda, did not immediately respond to emails requesting comment on the end of their relationship.

Brazil’s Health Ministry signed a letter of intent on June 4 with Belcher to buy 60 million doses of CanSino’s single-shot vaccine for delivery in the second half of this year, according to a document seen by Reuters.

The vaccine, branded Convidecia and developed by CanSino together with a research institute linked to the Chinese military, was priced at $17 per dose, the document said.

Anvisa said in a statement that its board voted unanimously late on Monday to cancel the emergency use request after receiving notice from CanSino via email that Belcher was no longer its authorized representative in Brazil.

CanSino has asked to replace its representative in Brazil and that representative would have to apply again for emergency use authorization, Anvisa added. ($1 = 4.9434 reais) (Reporting by Anthony Boadle in Brasilia and Eduardo Simoes in Sao Paulo Editing by Brad Haynes and Jonathan Oatis)