Monday, November 2, 2020

Bolsonaro's vaccine war (Nov. 2, 2020)

 Potential coronavirus vaccines, who will take them and which ones, are a political issue in Brazil, particularly ahead of the Nov. 15 local elections. President Jair Bolsonaro is increasingly positioning himself against inoculation programs, and seems to oppose the Sinovac vaccine due to political concerns reported Reuters last week.  (See Oct. 27's briefs.) 

Bolsonaro is sparring with São Paulo state governor João Doria over whether Brazil will purchase the Chinese Sinovac Covid-19 vaccine being tested with São Paulo's Butantan Institute. Doria has said state residents will be required to take a vaccine, likely the one Sinovac and the local Butantan Institute are testing.

But it is unclear that Bolsonaro is supported even within his government. Vice President Hamilton Mourão contradicted Bolsonaro and said on Friday that Brazil's government will "of course" buy the Sinovac vaccine. Mourão said Bolsonaro's stance was without substance, putting it down to a war of words with Doria, reports Reuters.

Yesterday, small groups of protesters gathered in São Paulo and Rio de Janeiro to demonstrate against any mandate for the taking of a coronavirus vaccine, supporting a rejection campaign encouraged by Bolsonaro. In São Paulo protesters called for the removal of Doria. (Associated Press)

A PoderData poll said this week the percentage of Brazilians who say they would take a coronavirus vaccine dropped to 63% in October from 85% four months earlier. The percentage rejecting the idea of taking a vaccine rose to 22% from 8% in July. The shift is linked to political leanings. The Getulio Vargas Foundation think tank said an analysis of 2 million Twitter postings found that 24% of profiles identified as pro-Bolsonaro and they accounted for 56% of mentions against the vaccine.

Brazil has a long positive history with vaccines, which enabled the country to control yellow fever and measles, among other pathogens. In fact, Brazil has long been recognized as one of the vaccine-friendliest countries in the world, reported the Washington Post last month. But in recent years the issue has become politicized, in 2019, for the first time in 25 years, Brazil didn’t fulfill its vaccination goal for any of the shots it routinely administers, reported the New York Times in August. And Bolsonaro's erratic stance towards the pandemic and unproven remedies are speeding up the erosion of trust in vaccines and science.

More Brazil-Covid
  • Brazilian Health Minister Eduardo Pazuello was in stable condition in a hospital this weekend after being diagnosed with Covid-19, reports Reuters.
News Briefs

  • U.S. authorities have been deporting unaccompanied migrant children from other countries to Mexico. The move, part of the Trump administration's aggressive coronavirus border closure policy, violates a diplomatic agreement with Mexico that only Mexican children or others with adult supervision could be deported there. The expulsions put children from countries such as Guatemala, Honduras and El Salvador at risk by sending them with no accompanying adult into a country where they have no family connections, reports the New York Times.
Regional Relations
  • The U.S. Trump administration's hardline approach to Venezuela has helped the president's standing among Florida voters, but harsh sanctions have failed to oust Nicolás Maduro, while leaving Chinese, Russian and Iranian interests more firmly entrenched in Venezuela, reports the New York Times. The in-depth piece looks at how U.S. diplomacy has been hijacked by "ideologues, donors and lobbyists" who "compete to seize the attention of an inexperienced and highly transactional president."
  • Many Venezuelan hospitals lack medical workers to confront the coronavirus pandemic. Families fill the void at hospitals that serve the country's poorest: They feed patients, bathe them and change their bedsheets -- tasks normally done by trained medical professionals, reports the Associated Press.
  • U.S. sanctions forced the closure of more than 400 Western Union offices in Cuba, a move that will eliminate most remittances and aggravate the country’s profound economic crisis, reports the Guardian.
  • Bolivia’s outgoing congress approved a motion recommending that ex-interim president Jeanine Anez and her ministers face justice for responsibility for security force repression last year that resulted in over 30 deaths -- the massacres of Senkata, Sacaba and Yapacani. (Al Jazeera)
  • Criminal organizations have filled the power vacuum left by guerrilla fighters in rural Colombia. Their struggles to control valuable illegal economies include massacres and assassinations of community leaders are rising in the countryside, reports the Wall Street Journal.
  • Forecasters expect tropical storm Eta, which formed yesterday, to become a hurricane by today. (Associated Press)
  • Overfishing, often by foreign-owned ships, is responsible for significant environmental and economic damage for Latin America's coastal countries. A massive Chinese fishing fleet has been raising concerns as it moved along the edge of Ecuador's coastal waters, to Peru and Chile's. Ecuador said the fleet deactivated their on-board tracking systems to avoid discovery. For countries without surveillance and coast guard or naval capacity, international cooperation is key to confront illegal, unreported and unregulated fishing, according to WOLA.
  • Day of the Dead is particularly relevant this year in Mexico, which is mourning about 140,000 Covid-19 deaths. But the pandemic has left many families unable to mark the occasion with the traditional celebrations and visits to cemeteries, reports the Guardian. (Photo-essay in Al Jazeera.)

Did I miss something, get something wrong, or do you have a different take? Let me know ... 


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