In a country known for its good vaccinations, politicians now scold each other for “cheap populist” or “killing for ignorance” over the Covid-19 vaccine.
With a globally recognized vaccination program and a strong pharmaceutical production capacity, Brazil should have an advantage in the vaccine race. But the political fights, the split epidemic prevention plan and the anti-vaccine movement have left the country without a proper Covid-19 vaccination program. Shady people do not know when they can get rid of the virus that has crushed the economy and paralyzed the public health care system.
“They are playing with people’s lives,” commented Denise Garrett, an epidemiologist at the Sabin Vaccine Institute.
Many experts once expected Brazil’s vaccination capacity to help them handle the pandemic better in the later period. In the first phase, shortly after Covid arrived in February, Brazil became the focus of the global health crisis.
President Jair Bolsonaro then dismissed a series of scientific evidence, describing nCoV as the “bullshit cold virus”. He did not blockade the country, and also criticized the governors for imposing quarantine measures and for the business to shut down.
Now that the UK and the United States are embarking on a historic vaccination program, creating hope for a normal post-epidemic life, Brazil is once again bogged down in the tumultuous debates about vaccine politicization.
The Health Department last week presented the Supreme Court-ordered immunization plan. The plan sets the vulnerable group to be given vaccination priority, but lacks a specific timeline and the number of available vaccines. The vaccination program is scheduled to begin in March next year, the ministry said.
Days later, the Ministry of Health still won each vaccine contract with suppliers that were already overloaded. Officials also face the question of why the country does not have enough needles and jars to start the vaccination campaign needed for a country with 210 million people and more than 180,000 Covid-19 deaths.
“People will panic if Brazil does not have a clear and objective plan and strategy,” said Rodrigo Maia, a member of the House of Representatives.
The process of buying vaccines is also in political controversy. President Bolsonaro repeatedly changed his opinion about the CoronaVac vaccine developed by Sinovac Biotech of China. He abruptly canceled his order for 46 million doses in October.
His political rival, João Doria, governor of the state of São Paulo, negotiated directly with China on the purchase of the vaccine. Doria said state officials cannot wait for the federal government, having changed to three health ministers in less than a year of pandemic. Last week, Governor Doria promised São Paulo voters to begin the immunization program by the end of January next year.
Governors of several other states have also begun looking to buy their own vaccines, with the Russian Sputnik V vaccine as an option.
Meanwhile, the government has put its faith in vaccines from Oxford University and the pharmaceutical company AstraZeneca. But the product is slower than its competitors in the race. The presidential office described Doria’s January vaccination plan as “irresponsible and cheap populist”. Bia Kicis, a trusted politician of the president, claims that vaccination is a trick to make changes in human genes. This is refuted by medical experts.
The controversy intensified further when Mr. Doria and the federal government were alleged to have dangerously politicized people’s vaccination plans.
Carla Domingues, an expert on epidemiology and immunization, said that the Covid-19 vaccine in Brazil is slowly becoming a partisan problem.
“This has never happened in previous vaccination campaigns. It confuses people,” she said. “It is not unthinkable”.
Even when overcoming the supply and logistics difficulties, health experts believe that Brazil will face a new problem: the vaccine boycott movement. Earlier this month, on Twitter, MP Roberto Jefferson wrote: “Globalists are preparing a vaccine to change our DNA.” The post has been shared more than 3,000 times.
The anti-vaccination movement is increasingly tense, with some governors, including Mr. Doria, to propose the idea of mandatory vaccination. However, President Bolsonaro said that “vaccines should only be compulsory for dogs”.
Before that, vaccinations in Brazil were completely voluntary. But people rarely doubt the safety and effectiveness of the injections.
The poll by the prestigious Datafolha group of data analysis companies found that 22% of respondents had no intention of getting the Covid-19 vaccine, up more than twice from 9% in August.
Thuc Linh (According to the NY Times)