As the coronavirus continues to spread across the globe, claiming nearly 2 million lives, Brazilian President Jair Bolsonaro has called vaccines into question and referred to them as “nonsensical,” according to Bloomberg.
“These are experimental vaccines with no scientific evidence. You can’t impose this on people,” Bolsonaro said. “We have to be responsible. We can’t go with the crowd saying we need to rush.”
Bolsonaro made the comments on Thursday. He claimed that Brazilians don’t want vaccines after informally polling random people on the street and on the beach. However, a survey compiled by pollster Datafolha shows that more than 73% of the Brazilian public say they plan to take a vaccine.
Despite contracting COVID-19 in July, Bolsonaro has played down the virus, going as far as saying that it’s just a “little flu.” He has also failed to secure medical and protective equipment for people in his country, stating that he will wait until the global price of supplies such as needles and syringes goes down. Such a lack of action has left Brazil’s 27 states fending for themselves as they independently search for resources on their own.
Impoverished states are at a particular disadvantage compared to richer states such as São Paulo, Rio de Janeiro, and Minas Gerais. São Paulo Governor João Doria, a Bolsonaro rival, has announced that he’ll begin vaccinating residents of his state, which happens to be among Brazil’s wealthiest.
Other Latin American countries, including Mexico, Argentina, and Chile, have already begun administering vaccines to their citizens. Health Minister Eduardo Pazuello has tried to dispel public criticism; last week, he explained that Brazil had secured 354 million vaccine doses of vaccines and that all states would be prioritized equally. However, with almost 8 million cases, Brazil is among the world’s worst-hit countries, and health officials are fearing that the time to prevent a disaster has passed.