Politicization of a Pandemic Costs Lives
Brazilian President Jair Bolsonaro and Governor of São Paulo João Doria clashed over the implementation of a mandatory coronavirus vaccination of the São Paulo region. Joao Doria is in favor of making CoronaVac, a COVID-19 immunization, mandatory alongside other non-coronavirus vaccines as Brazil requires. Sinovac is a China-based biopharmaceutical company developing the CoronaVac and would conduct phase three trials on the São Paulo citizens, which is favored by Governor Doria, according to the South China Morning Post.
Joao Doria is running in the 2022 presidential election and challenging incumbent Jair Bolsonaro, increasing an already contentious relationship. The petty fighting has more to do with gaining power rather than the safety of the public. Thus, the President and Governor’s strong opposing views are driving further from the common goal of decreasing mortality rates.
Brazil has the third most coronavirus cases in the world with 5.6 million infections and the second most deaths with nearly 163,000 dead. It ranks fourth in per-capita deaths, according to Bloomberg. Yet, this serious toll did not unify the nation.
To better understand Brazil’s 5.6 million infections, when President Bolsonaro contracted the virus, he behaved recklessly by not wearing a mask and ignoring health guidelines. He also promoted hydroxychloroquine, an unproven and potentially dangerous coronavirus treatment, states The New York Times. The Brazilian President does not create a good precedent during this pandemic. He recklessly interacts while infected and promotes a false treatment. His citizens could easily mimic not wearing masks and opt for false treatment.
MercoPress reports that on November 1, more than 300 Brazilians in São Paulo gathered to protest Doria’s support of a mandatory CoronaVac vaccine. One protester claimed, “This doesn’t happen anywhere in the world, not even China,” calling Doria an “authoritarian Chinese ambassador.”
Bolsonaro has expressed prejudice against China. He instills fear in his people to his own advantage. He persuades them not to trust science but to trust him. According to the Associated Press, Bolsonaro echoed the protesters of São Paulo, stating “Brazilians will not be guinea pigs to the Chinese.” Mr. Bolsonaro devalued the credibility of the Coronavac simply because of its origin, depicting his skewed view while rearing from his duty to keep his citizens safe. He manipulated his narrative as he cares about the safety of his citizens, although he is more focused on the control China would have if they were to test their vaccine in Brazil.
On November 10, Bolsonaro said Brazilians “must stop being sissies” about the virus, adding: “We are all going to die one day,” reports Al Jazeera. This recent remark lacks empathy and sensitivity to the civilians dying from this horrific disease, emphasizing Bolsonaro’s spiraling and loosening the grip of his role as President all the while tightening the grasp of his position as President. Additional pressure by the political challenger Doria running against him and supporting the vaccine can only drive Bolsonaro to be more radical and volatile.
Bolsonaro’s political goals are not for the health of his citizens, but the role Brazil plays on the international stage. Wall Street Journal reports that Bolsonaro claims Chinese investments threaten the country’s “sovereignty and national security.” Bolsonaro is so hyper fixated on remaining as president and staying in power that he becomes blind to domestic concerns. The citizens are stuck in the crossfire and are misinformed by a power-hungry ruler.
To separate Bolsonaro’s paranoia from the facts of the CoronaVac: “Pfizer Inc. and BioNTech SE released early findings showing that a vaccine they are developing prevented more than 90% of symptomatic infections in the trial of tens of thousands of volunteers, boosting hope for a quick neutralization of Covid-19,” according to Bloomberg. Along with China’s science ministry, the company inoculated about 60,000 volunteers in final-stage trials with no reports of serious adverse events.
The ultimate choice to make immunizations mandatory in Brazil is decided by the Supreme Court. The vaccine implantation was suspended for a few days after someone who received the vaccine died. Scientists discovered that the death was unrelated to the vaccine so they continued the trial. The paranoia the President inspires and the lack of moral prioritization reinforces him as being unfit to lead Brazil. Hopefully, this vaccine works in their favor, the death rates decrease, and citizens are more cognizant of the 2022 election.