More than 116.8 million Brazilians do not have enough food on their tables, according to a December 2020 study. Meanwhile, the country gained a further 11 billionaires on the latest Forbes list. And this increased concentration of wealth and widespread hunger comes during a harrowing pandemic that has claimed over 340,000 lives so far. The chasm between Brazil’s rich and poor has now widened to encapsulate the coronavirus pandemic, as Congress plans to pass legislation allowing private companies to purchase vaccines, even while the national campaign has yet to immunize all priority groups.
Private vaccine purchases are set to be a natural part of immunization processes around the world — but only after public systems assure the vaccination of at-risk populations. Around 5 percent of Brazilians have been fully immunized so far, some way off the target.
The idea of opening up purchases to the private sector at this early stage has been criticized by several sectors, claiming that it would institutionalize the country’s socio-economic equality. Meanwhile, those in favor say: the more vaccines, the better.
Indeed, private companies are already allowed to buy vaccines — on the condition that they donate them to the public sector while the vaccination of ongoing populations is ongoing.
A recent scandal in Minas Gerais showed that not all companies are obeying these rules. A group of transport firms reportedly refused to donate doses to the public health system and instead vaccinated their own workers, at BRL 600 (USD 108) a go. A police investigation found that they were not even real vaccines — one nurse injected a number of paying employees with a simple saline solution.