Anger over Brazil’s rich trying to jump vaccine queue

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Brazilians are upset over the government’s plans to give private businesses preferential access to Covid-19 vaccines, The Independent reported.

Last Tuesday, the country’s legislative body backed a bill that would allow private companies to purchase vaccines from individual suppliers and offer them to their employees, even before frontline workers and at-risk groups have received them.

Health officials have expressed outrage that the National Congress is busy bickering over allowing private companies access to vaccines at a time when the country’s intensive care units are overflowing with patients and cases are on a rise. The country recorded almost 4,200 Covid deaths last Tuesday.

Brazil’s vaccine rollout has so far been disappointing, with just over eight per cent of their 212 million population being vaccinated. Last month the Congress approved a law that would allow the private sector to purchase vaccines but will have to donate them to the health ministry until 100 per cent vaccination rate is achieved among all priority groups. Now, the country’s businesses are trying to amend this law.

Residents wait to receive the Sinovac’s CoronaVac coronavirus disease (COVID-19) vaccine at the community Quilombo Quilomba, descendants of African slaves, in Mage, Rio de Janeiro state, Brazil April 7, 2021. (Reuters)

Businessman Luciano Hang, who supports the amendment along with his corporate counterparts, said in a magazine interview, “The law needs to be changed. I trust that the market could really help resolve the country’s vaccine problem. Regrettably, once again public power is involved and gets in the way of the pandemic.”

Experts have stated that the move will only increase the rich and poor divide in one of the most unequal countries in the world.

Renato Janine Ribeiro, a professor of philosophy and ethics and former education, told The Independent that the government’s decision is unethical. “You have a situation where lots of people are dying but Brazil’s rich are used to buying what they want. Even lives,” he says.

Brazil was once known for its prompt health response and vaccination programmes. However, President Jair Bolsonaro downplayed the pandemic and raised doubts about the vaccines.

Last month, the country’s business elite, in an open letter, targeted Bolsonaro without explicitly naming him. They demanded the country’s political leadership take stronger action after failing to implement national lockdowns and “flirting with the anti-vaccine movement.”

Rodrigo Armstrong, a political scientist from the FGV think tank, said, “Bolsonaro created this fake opposition that it’s the economy vs the disease. But people are now realising that you can’t handle one without the other” The Independent has reported.

As per a poll by PoderData, Bolsonaro’s popularity has sunk over the months, with a record 59 per cent rejecting him.

Experts have argued that Bolsonaro’s support to privatisation of the vaccine drive is to address the growing frustration over lack of vaccines.

Experts fear that over 100,000 lives could be lost in Brazil by April, with the poor bearing most of the brunt.



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