President Jair Bolsonaro appears to relish in opposing as many rational scientific arguments as he can. When the Covid-19 pandemic started — with the first official case recorded in Brazil on February 26 — the president’s attitude toward the virus made it clear that an anti-vaccine movement would prosper in the country, backed by some of his hardcore supporters.
Elsewhere in South America, Argentinian President Alberto Fernández said that vaccinating people would be the “most important” thing in 2021. In Uruguay, center-right President Luis Lacalle Pou entered the World Health Organization’s vaccine pool, in order to define the best type of vaccine for Uruguayan citizens. Mr. Lacalle Pou also recommends the use of face masks and social distancing behaviors to fight the virus.
Mr. Bolsonaro, however, questions the effectiveness of masks, arguing that people should be allowed to choose whether to wear them. But when it comes to vaccines, the president appears to be ignoring the fact that a successful vaccine could become an ally. With an efficient coverage of vaccination, the economy could begin to return to normal, and the government’s emergency public spending on health could be reduced.
But that’s Bolsonaro and his head-in-the-sand attitude. Besides ignoring the basics required to avoid contamination, he has actively encouraged irresponsible behavior.
News of the approval of Pfizer’s coronavirus vaccine in the United Kingdom could well be the greatest scientific achievement of the last century. And this is the development Mr. Bolsonaro is neglecting, only to pander to his most conservative and conspiratory support base.