A staff member displays samples of the COVID-19 inactivated vaccine at Sinovac Biotech Ltd, in Beijing, March 16, 2020. [Photo/Xinhua]

SAO PAULO – Two coronavirus vaccines, from AstraZeneca and China’s Sinovac, may be ready for use in Brazil by mid-February, the country’s health minister said on Wednesday, although the timing of the national rollout will depend on regulatory approvals.

The lack of a fixed date for vaccinations to start in Brazil has become a thorn in the side of President Jair Bolsonaro, as other nations begin immunizing their populations.

Speaking on Wednesday, after a ceremony to discuss the national coronavirus vaccination plan, Health Minister Eduardo Pazuello said data from the vaccines, which are being tested in Brazil, could be analyzed by health regulator Anvisa in January.

“Possibly in the middle of February onwards, we can have these vaccines received and registered to start the plan,” said Pazuello.

Brazil’s federal government has a deal to buy the vaccine developed by Oxford University and AstraZeneca, and Sao Paulo state has partnered with Chinese vaccine maker Sinovac Biotech.

More than 180,000 people have died from COVID-19 in Brazil, which has the world’s second-deadliest outbreak behind the United States. After a months on the decline, the virus has been raging again in recent days, with new cases and deaths rising sharply.

The government laid out its vaccination plans in writing over the weekend, with an initial goal of vaccinating 51 million people, or about one-fourth of the population, in the first half of 2021. The Health Ministry said 108 million doses will be available for priority vaccination of vulnerable groups, including health workers, the elderly and indigenous groups.

The plan says 70 percent of the population – or about 148 million of Brazil’s 212 million people – need to be immunized to stop the virus spreading. The current plan covers just about one-third of that goal.