Brazilian President Jair Bolsonaro has rejected the announced purchase of 46 million doses of a potential vaccine against the coronavirus. His reason? It’s being developed by a Chinese company and tested in a Brazilian state governed by a political rival. The president’s actions have many people weighing politics against public health.
Brazil’s Health Minister Eduardo Pazuello announced the vaccine buy-up in a meeting with Sao Paulo Governor João Doria. Sao Paulo state is joining in the vaccine’s development through its Butantan Institute. Doria is a political foe of Bolsonaro’s.
“Butantan’s vaccine will be Brazil’s vaccine,” Pazuello proclaimed. A Brazilian Health Ministry document confirmed that the ministry did intend to buy doses of the “Butantan Vaccine-Sinovac/Covid-19.”
But Bolsonaro declares that the deal is canceled. He says, “The Brazilian people will not be anyone’s guinea pig.” He says the vaccine has not completed testing. Of course, that is the case with all potential vaccines for the virus right now.
Political science professor Claudio Couto believes the president’s move had little to do with the virus. She thinks it was intended to hurt Doria—a likely challenger to Bolsonaro’s 2022 reelection bid.
Bolsonaro and Doria have had an rocky relationship since the start of the pandemic. They’ve taken opposite stances regarding stay-at-home orders and restrictions on activity.
Governor Doria heads Brazil’s most populous state. He followed the counsel of public health experts. But President Bolsonaro blasted those actions. He argued the economic fallout from social distancing could kill more people than the disease.
Bolsonaro accused the governor of playing politics by rushing a vaccine in order to boost his popularity.
Bolsonaro’s comments also reflect doubt about the vaccine being developed by Chinese pharmaceutical company Sinovac. He has often expressed mistrust of the Asian power, Brazil’s biggest trade partner. In 2018, he called China “heartless” and said that under his watch it wouldn’t be allowed to buy up Brazil.
At least two of Brazil’s 27 governors say they will fight Bolsonaro’s administration if it refuses authorization for a vaccine that works—whatever country it comes from.
It is better to take refuge in the Lord than to trust in man. — Psalm 118:8
(Sao Paulo Governor Joao Doria, left, greets the Director of Brazil’s National Health Surveillance Agency, Antonio Barra, upon his arrival to the agency’s headquarters for a meeting on the CoronaVac vaccine. AP Photo/Eraldo Peres)