Brazil losing patience with Covid-19 vaccine snobs

By Alba Santandreu

Sao Paulo, Jul 7 (EFE).- Brazil’s public health officials are taking a tougher line with people who are only willing to be injected with a specific Covid-19 vaccine as the pandemic continues to rage in the giant South American nation that has already lost more than 525,000 lives to the illness.

“It implies a delay in the logistics, of the entire process. There is urgency to vaccinate,” Brazilian Immunization Society head Renato Kfouri told Efe.

Brazil has four Covid-19 vaccines: AstraZeneca, developed by Oxford University; CoronaVac, from China’s Sinovac Biotech; Janssen, from a subsidiary of Johnson & Johnson, and Pfizer, created by the US pharmaceutical giant in partnership with Germany’s BioNTech.

“In the beginning the majority wanted AstraZeneca, but when they disclosed possible problems with thrombosis they turned to CoronaVac,” Kfouri said. “Then Pfizer, which has the best press abroad, and now one of the most sought-after is Janssen, which is a single dose.”

An additional complicating factor has been right-wing President Jair Bolsonaro’s ongoing criticism of CoronaVac as the “Chinese vaccine” even though Brazil’s largest vaccine maker is turning out doses of the preparation under license from Sinovac.

Signs hanging outside a walk-up vaccination site in Sao Paulo’s Cambuci neighborhood have a stern message for vaccine snobs: “Covid-19 infects indiscriminately. No matter which vaccine, get vaccinated now!”

Standing in line outside, Carlos Silva acknowledges that while he would prefer to get the Janssen shot, he will accept whatever vaccine is on offer.

“The vaccine is a very personal choice. We must respect the choice of each individual, respect how each person feels. If there were no alternative, I would take what there was,” he says.

At the start of this month, authorities in Sao Bernardo do Campo, an industrial suburb of Sao Paulo, ordered that anyone who comes to a site and refuses inoculation with the vaccine on offer be sent to the back of the line.

“Whoever wants to choose a brand is more concerned about wanting a vaccine that is authorized in other countries than about the protection of his or her own body and health,” Mayor Orlando Morando said recently.

The municipal government in Recife, capital of the northeastern state of Recife, has gone even further, instructing that anybody who declines a particular vaccine be required to wait at least 60 days to get inoculated.

Rio de Janeiro Mayor Eduardo Paes has threatened to take a similar step.

Only 12 percent of Brazilians have been fully vaccinated, while some 35 percent have received at least one dose.

“Every time the process of inoculation is delayed, there are more deaths,” Kfouri said, though adding that raising awareness is a better way to eliminate vaccine snobbery than penalizing people. EFE as/dr

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