Brazil’s far-right President Jair Bolsoanaro has shown himself to be against coronavirus vaccines on a number of occasions since 2020, when he first belittled the effectiveness of inoculation against Covid-19. Despite a brief ceasefire last year when his government realized vaccination could increase approval ratings, nothing has been able to convince the anti-vax head of state that coronavirus jabs are a good thing — even more so when it comes to vaccinating children.
While the vast majority of Brazilian parents are keen on having their children inoculated against the coronavirus, Mr. Bolsonaro knows that a slice of his most radical supporters are against the idea, giving him a platform to stand in the campaign’s way whenever possible.
When Mr. Bolsonaro ran for president in 2018, he did so on a “God and family” ticket, encapsulated in his “Brazil above everything, God above everyone” slogan. But his unwillingness to allow Brazilian children to receive vaccines goes against this credo. Over 300 children died from Covid-19 in Brazil last year — and the number of minors in ICUs has increased rapidly amid the Omicron infection wave.
However, despite much resistance from the president, the vaccination of children between the ages of 5 and 11 has begun in the country. This week, we have seen heartwarming scenes of youngsters happily receiving their jabs, and in some cases honoring their dead relatives. Data from Imperial College London says that over 280,000 Brazilian minors were orphaned due to Covid-19.
The backlash from the government continues, though interrupting vaccination at this stage will be nigh impossible. The strategy for the Bolsonaro camp is to reach the parents and discourage them from taking their kids to vaccination centers, claiming the jabs could be more dangerous than the virus itself. Even Health Minister Marcelo Queiroga has entered into the realm of misinformation, claiming that over 4,000 people have died as a result of Covid-19 vaccination — when the real number is closer to 10.
Indeed, with Bolsonaro, Queiroga, and the rest of Brazil’s antivax representatives, who are the real fussy children here?