Most people and governments around the world are pinning their hopes for an end to the Covid-19 pandemic on vaccines. International pharmaceutical companies are racing to produce an effective one.
Brazil is one of the worst affected countries, reporting more than 5.5 million confirmed cases and about 160,000 deaths, so one might think Brazil is anxious for a vaccine.
But social media campaigns in the giant country have raised questions about the possible perils of vaccines and anti-vax campaigns are gaining strength.
Protesters gathered in Sao Paulo, Brazil’s biggest city on Sunday to demonstrate in support of the rejection campaign encouraged by President Jair Bolsonaro against any obligatory taking of a coronavirus vaccine. Demonstrators supporting Bolsonaro also protested on Copacabana Beach in Rio de Janeiro, Brazil’s second biggest city, reports the Associated Press.
The demonstrations were prompted by Sao Paulo state Governor Joao Doria saying that all state residents will be required to take a vaccine, probably the one being developed by Chinese biopharmaceutical company Sinovac and the local Butantan Institute.
On hearing that news, demonstrators marched in downtown Sao Paulo, calling for his removal.
The CoronaVac, as it is being called, has been the target of scepticism by Bolsonaro and others, with the president saying Brazilians will not be guinea pigs for the Chinese.
However, most health professionals support the use of vaccines.
“Vaccination en masse will be the only mechanism we have to control the epidemic, at least in the medium-term,” Jesem Orellana, an epidemiologist said. “We have failed over the past eight months with non-pharmacological measures.”
Paulo Lotufo, a University of Sao Paulo epidemiologist, said national immunization programs have been well-received by the Brazilian public in the past, which saw the positive impact of vaccinations, including against meningitis and polio.
“The population will take the vaccine,” Lotufo told AP. “More than 90% of the population will vaccinate.”