BRASILIA (Reuters) - Brazil's government will "of course" buy a Chinese COVID-19 vaccine that is being tested in the country, Vice President Hamilton Mourão said on Friday, in the latest example of him contradicting President Jair Bolsonaro.
Last week, Bolsonaro, a long-standing China critic, said the federal government would not buy a COVID-19 vaccine from China's Sinovac, one day after the health minister said that it would be included in the nation's immunization program.
His comments thrust into the open a simmering debate over vaccine policy between the president and key governors, who have been exploring alternatives to the AstraZeneca vaccine the federal government has prioritized.
However, in an interview in the magazine Veja that hit the stands on Friday, Mourão said Bolsonaro's stance was without substance, putting it down to a war of words with political rivals, like Sao Paulo state Governor João Doria.
"The government will buy the vaccine, of course it will. We have already put the resources in Butantan to produce this vaccine. The government will not run away from that," Mourão was quoted as saying.
Sao Paulo state biomedical research center, the Butantan Institute, is testing the Sinovac vaccine. Doria hopes to have regulatory approval by the end of the year and start vaccinating people in January.
On Wednesday, Brazil's health regulator Anvisa said it had authorized the import of Sinovac's raw materials to produce the vaccine.
As an elected official, Mourão has often felt comfortable contradicting some of Bolsonaro's most incendiary comments. Among the business community and diplomats, he is viewed as a pragmatic voice of reason in the administration.
(Reporting by Maria Carolina Marcello; Editing by Bill Berkrot)