BRASILIA -- Brazil launched a mass immunization campaign against the COVID-19 pandemic in every state starting at 5:00 p.m. Monday local time (2000 GMT).
The initial plan was to begin nationwide vaccination on Wednesday, but the date was moved up in response to the request of state governors, said Minister of Health Eduardo Pazuello.
"The governors asked that as soon as (the vaccines) arrive in the states, they have the freedom to begin vaccination," Pazuello said.
As of Monday afternoon, all states were expected to have received their doses of the CoronaVac vaccine developed by Chinese laboratory Sinovac in collaboration with the Butantan Institute of Sao Paulo, one of the world's leading scientific research centers.
Brazil's health regulatory agency Anvisa on Sunday afternoon authorized the emergency use of CoronaVac and a vaccine developed by British-Swedish pharmaceutical company AstraZeneca and the University of Oxford.
Currently, only the CoronaVac vaccine is available in the South American country, and some 6 million doses are being distributed.
Nationwide distribution of the Chinese vaccine began early on Monday, under the supervision of the Ministry of Health and with the logistical support of the Brazilian Air Force.
Brazil's west-central state Goias became the first state on Monday to launch its mass vaccination campaign against COVID-19, immediately after receiving doses of the Chinese CoronaVac vaccine.
Ronaldo Caiado, governor of Goias and a doctor by profession, vaccinated 73-year-old Maria Conceicao da Silva, who resides in a care home and suffers from hypertension, shortly before 5:00 p.m. local time (2000 GMT) in the city of Anapolis.
By 5 p.m. local time, the states of Mato Grosso do Sul, Piaui, Rio de Janeiro and Santa Catarina, as well as Goias, received the CoronaVac doses shipped by the ministry.
Teresinha da Coneicao, 80, and Dulcineia da Silva, 59, were the first two Rio residents to receive the CoronaVac vaccine.
"It is the happiest day of my life because now I can go out. I can do what I want. I'm quite fine at the care home, but I want to go out," Teresinha da Coneicao told media.
The patient, who is set to receive the second dose of CoronaVac within three weeks, was given the vaccine jab by Adelia Maria dos Santos, a 71-year-old nurse and a founder of Rio's Immunization Program, who worked on the first vaccination campaigns against measles and poliomyelitis.
"Today is a historical day, when we started vaccination against COVID-19 in Rio de Janeiro. With this, we hope to reduce the serious cases and deaths of COVID-19," said Marcio Garcia, an epidemiologist of the health secretary of Rio de Janeiro.
"All vaccines approved in Brazil are effective vaccines, with qualities. We don't care about the brand of the vaccine. The important thing is to vaccinate. Today we started with the CoronaVac, and we are going to expand it with other vaccines for Brazil and for Rio de Janeiro," Garcia added.
Brazil's Butantan Institute said Monday that it has requested Anvisa to authorize the emergency use of all CoronaVac vaccines produced by the Sao Paulo-based institute.
"This morning we submitted the request for emergency use now of all the doses that will be produced at Butantan," said Dimas Covas, the institute's director. "We hope the authorization comes through as soon as possible."
Earlier on Sunday, Anvisa authorized the application of 6 million doses of CoronaVac that arrived ready-to-use from China and have been distributed to states nationwide early Monday for the start of vaccination, according to Covas.
According to the Ministry of Health, some 8,511,770 people in Brazil have so far been tested positive for COVID-19 and 210,299 people have died from the disease.