Anvisa boss openly disagrees with Bolsonaro on vaccines, chloroquine

Anvisa boss openly disagrees with Bolsonaro on vaccines, chloroquine
Antonio Barra Torres before the Senate’s Covid hearings committee. Photo: Jefferson Rudy/SF/ACS/CC BY 4.0

During his deposition at the Senate’s Covid hearings committee, Antonio Barra Torres — head of health regulator Anvisa — has set himself apart from Health Minister Marcelo Queiroga when confronted with difficult questions. Mr. Barra Torres’ testimony is ongoing and will continue throughout this afternoon.

While Mr. Queiroga refrained from giving objective answers about President Jair Bolsonaro’s anti-vaccine remarks — irritating the inquiry’s members — Mr. Barra Torres distanced himself from the head of state. “Speaking out against vaccines has no reasonable justification in history,” he said. “We have to vaccinate people.”

He also went against the president when discussing antimalarial drug chloroquine, touted by Mr. Bolsonaro as a “possible cure” against Covid-19. He confirmed a meeting in the presidential palace to discuss a change to the drug’s label, adding recommendations for treating Covid-19. “I said [when this change was evoked]: this is totally inappropriate.” In a later moment, the regulator called the proposal “absurd.”

Then, when asked about joining President Bolsonaro in a March 2020 demonstration against isolation measures — where neither wore a mask — Mr. Barra Torres once again established differences between his behavior and that of the president. “Despite my friendship with the president, his conduct differs from mine,” he said. 

“Back then, the Health Ministry recommended face masks for infected patients and health professionals,” he said, adding that he wore a mask at all times in his most recent appearance on President Bolsonaro’s weekly Facebook Live broadcasts. “Even the press took notice.”