BRASILIA, June 14 (Reuters) - Brazil's health regulator Anvisa has extended the validity of the single-shot Johnson & Johnson COVID-19 vaccine, prolonging its shelf life from 3 months to 4.5 months, giving the country more time to use a first batch due to arrive this week.
The batch of 3 million doses was due to expire on June 27, but now Brazil has followed the U.S. Food and Drug Administration in extending the expiration dates by a month a half. Health Minister Marcelo Queiroga said the vaccines should arrive on Wednesday, a day later than he said last week.
Brazil signed an agreement with the J&J-owned Belgian laboratory Janssen to receive 38 million doses for delivery in the last quarter of this year, so the first batch is arriving earlier than originally planned, he told a Senate commission of inquiry last week.
The Senate commission is investigating the government for delays in securing timely vaccines, which politicians blame on far-right President Jair Bolsonaro's anti-vaccine views.
Brazil has been hit by the second-deadliest COVID-19 outbreak outside of the United States and is behind most countries in vaccinating its population of 210 million.
So far only 24.7% of Brazilians have been vaccinated with one dose, mainly of CoronaVac, made by China's Sinovac Biotech Ltd, and the vaccines developed by AstraZeneca and Pfizer Inc. Less than half of them have received two doses.
Brazil has now registered 17,412,766 cases of coronavirus since the pandemic began, in the world's third worst outbreak outside the United States and India, and 487,401 people have died of COVID-19 in the country, according to ministry data. (Reporting by Ricardo Brito; writing by Anthony Boadle; Editing by Cynthia Osterman and Aurora Ellis)