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UPDATE 1-Brazil chief health regulator disagrees with president on vaccines, masks

·1 min read

(Recasts to focus on remarks about President Bolsonaro)

BRASÍLIA, May 11 (Reuters) - Brazil's chief health regulator on Tuesday said President Jair Bolsonaro's past skepticism about COVID-19 vaccines contradicts his agency's position and public statements, stressing the need immunize the population to contain the pandemic.

Testifying before a Senate committee investigating the Brazilian federal government's handling of the COVID-19 health crisis, Antonio Barra Torres, head of health regulator Anvisa, also disagreed with Bolsonaro on masks and social distancing.

"We understand, contrary to what you just read, that the vaccination policy is essential," he told a senator asking about Bolsonaro's past public remarks downplaying the usefulness of vaccines.

Torres also said he differs from the president regarding use of chloroquine, a malaria drug Bolsonaro has promoted as a COVID-19 treatment despite scientific studies showing that it is ineffective.

Regarding the agency's analysis of Russia's Sputnik V COVID-19, which is not approved in Brazil, Torres said the process is stalled pending arrival of documents requested from its local manufacturing partner Uniao Química. (Reporting by Maria Carolina Marcello Writing by Ana Mano; Editing by Christian Plumb)

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