(Adds Doria comments)
SAO PAULO, Dec 3 (Reuters) - São Paulo's Butantan Institute biomedical center on Thursday received 1 million doses of a Chinese COVID-19 vaccine developed by Sinovac Biotech Ltd that is undergoing late-stage testing by the institute at 16 locations in Brazil.
The consignment of CoronaVac vaccine, which will be packaged and labeled at Butantan's facilities, arrived at São Paulo's Guarulhos airport.
It is the second shipment to arrive in Brazil of the vaccine, which still needs approval from federal health regulator Anvisa before it can be used. On Nov. 19, 120,000 doses landed from China. Butantan said it expected Sinovac to publish efficacy results from its vaccine trials by Dec. 15.
São Paulo Governor João Doria, speaking on Thursday at a news conference, said that immunizations would begin in the state in January, adding that he expected Anvisa to authorize the vaccine before then.
"I want to reaffirm that, in São Paulo, in a responsible manner, following the law and strictly observing the law, next January, we will comply with the protocol with Anvisa and obey the principles of protection of life, and we will start the immunization of Brazilians from São Paulo," he said.
The January start date, if it happens, would mean the state would begin vaccinations ahead of national plan, slated to start in March.
"We are not going to wait for March and we are not going to bury more Brazilians just to wait, when we could be saving more than 60 thousand lives as of January," Doria said.
Earlier on Thursday, Doria had said the state would receive 6 million doses of the vaccine this month, with another 40 million by Jan. 15.
President Jair Bolsonaro, who many expect to be challenged by Doria in the 2022 presidential election, has long criticized the Sinovac vaccine.
Doria, meanwhile, has accused Anvisa of becoming overly politicized after a surprise suspension of the Sinovac trial due to the suicide of a volunteer. The trial was restarted but the president called the halt a "victory" for Bolsonaro. (Reporting by Leonardo Benassatto; Editing by John Stonestreet and Bill Berkrot)
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