2022 Race

Why Brazil’s Electoral Court blocked a televised address by the Health Minister

electoral Health Minister Marcelo Queiroga. Photo: Walterson Rosa/MS
Health Minister Marcelo Queiroga. Photo: Walterson Rosa/MS

Brazil’s Superior Electoral Court blocked Health Minister Marcelo Queiroga from airing a televised address about a polio vaccination campaign because it contained a reference to the government’s performance on Covid.

In Brazil, the president, cabinet ministers, and some other authorities can air televised addresses broadcast nationally for issues of national importance. Last year, this power was abused. In the span of a few weeks between June and August 2021, five ministers went on national TV — including Mr. Queiroga — without saying much of substance.

In most cases, the broadcast is previously recorded and aired around the primetime of 8 pm.

Edson Fachin, Brazil’s chief electoral justice, ruled on Monday that Mr. Queiroga’s new announcement will not be aired because it is not restricted to the polio vaccination campaign. 

Part of the transcript reads: “During the Covid pandemic, we demonstrated our ability to acquire and vaccinate, in record time, our population. As a result, we have achieved high rates of vaccination coverage that allowed us to control the public health emergency of national importance.”

The statement is misleading. Brazil entered 2021 with just one Covid vaccine contract to purchase 100.4 million doses of the AstraZeneca vaccine, enough for only 50.2 million people, or around a quarter of the Brazilian population.

The Jair Bolsonaro administration only signed the contracts for its first batches of the Pfizer and Johson & Johnson vaccines in March 2021, after huge political pressure. 

This year, the government announced the end of the Covid-related health emergency in April, but this was followed by an uptick in cases and deaths, as shown by The Brazilian Report

The Health Ministry launched a polio vaccination campaign last Sunday. The effort lasts until September 9. Polio has not been detected in Brazil since 1989, but vaccine coverage has been dropping in the last few years and has failed to reach the target of 95 percent of children every year since 2016.

The Ministry of Health did not reply to a request for comment.