Brazil’s Bolsonaro rejects China’s Covid-19 vaccine
Brazilian President Jair Bolsonaro on Wednesday rejected the announced purchase of 46 million doses of a potential vaccine against the coronavirus being developed by a Chinese company and tested in a state governed by a political rival, prompting some to question if he was allowing politics to steer public health decisions.
A Covid-19 vaccine candidate (Photo: BBC)
“ The Brazilian people will not be anyone’s guinea pig, ” Bolsonaro said on his social media channels, adding that the vaccine has not yet completed testing, which is the case with all potential vaccines for the virus. “ My decision is to not purchase such a vaccin e.”
Health Minister Eduardo Pazuello had announced the purchase Tuesday in a meeting with Sao Paulo Gov. João Doria, a foe of Bolsonaro’s whose state is participating in the vaccine’s development through its Butantan Institute. The cost of the acquisition was estimated at 2 billion reais ($360 million).
“ Butantan’s vaccine will be Brazil’s vaccine ,” Pazuello was quoted by AP as saying.
“ There is no intention to buy vaccines from China ,” said Antonio Elcio Franco, who added there will be only “a Brazilian vaccine” made at the Butantan Institute in Sao Paulo. Those shots, however, would still be based upon Sinovac’s research.
At least two governors, including Flavio Dino in Maranhao state, said they would fight Bolsonaro’s administration if it refused authorization for a vaccine that works, whatever its provenance.
“ We don’t want a new war ,” said Dino, another adversary of the president. “ Governors will go to Congress and to courts to ensure that the population has access to all vaccines that are efficient and safe. Health is a bigger asset than ideological or electoral disputes. ”
“ The Brazilian people will not be anyone’s guinea pig, ” Bolsonaro said on his social media channels (Photo: Courthouse News)
Brazil has a long tradition of immunization programs. The South American country has a struggling, but universal public health care system, that has been key to stopping outbreaks of measles, yellow fever and other diseases.
Bolsonaro has said no one will be forced to get a coronavirus vaccine. But his comments Wednesday reflected particular skepticism of the vaccine being developed by Chinese pharmaceutical company Sinovac.
He has often expressed mistrust of the Asian power, which is Brazil’s biggest trading partner, particularly on the campaign trail in 2018. He called China “heartless” and said that under his watch it wouldn’t be allowed to buy up Brazil.
“ THE CHINESE VACCINE OF JOÃO DORIA ,” Bolsonaro wrote on social media Wednesday. ″ For my government, any vaccine, before it is made available to the population, must be PROVEN SCIENTIFICALLY.″
Despite that nod to scientific rigor, Bolsonaro for months touted the healing powers of hydroxychloroquine even as studies indicated the anti-malarial drug was ineffective against the coronavirus and caused harmful side effects.
In June, Brazil’s government announced a deal with Oxford University and pharmaceutical company AstraZeneca to purchase 100 million doses of its potential coronavirus vaccine.
It has become common practice for governments to purchase doses of promising coronavirus vaccines, to build a stockpile in case they are proven effective. That investment is usually not refundable if the shot fails.
Earlier, the executive secretary of Brazil’s Health Ministry said in a televised statement that there had been a misunderstanding in the announcement about buying the CoronaVac vaccines.
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