Sao Paulo, Jan 14 (EFE).- Authorities in Sao Paulo, Brazil’s wealthiest and most populous state, inaugurated Friday a campaign to vaccinate children between the ages of 5 and 11 against Covid-19.
“It is a historic moment for Brazil,” Gov. Joao Doria, clad in a shirt emblazoned with the slogan #VacinaJa (Vaccinate Now), said at a hospital in Sao Paulo city.
He introduced Davi Seremramiwe, an 8-year-old indigenous boy with limited mobility who traveled to the city for medical treatment, as the first recipient.
The child’s father, tribal elder Jurandir Siridiwe, watched via video-link from the family’s native village in another part of the vast South American nation as Davi got the shot.
“Sao Paulo state seems like the first world,” Siridiwe said.
Davi was followed by a number of other kids, including some in wheelchairs.
Doria, the 2022 presidential nominee of the conservative PSDB party, denounced the administration of right-wing incumbent Jair Bolsonaro as “inhuman” for its opposition to vaccinating children against coronavirus, which has claimed 621,000 lives in Brazil.
Only the United States has a higher death toll from Covid-19.
Anvisa, Brazil’s medical regulatory agency, issued an authorization on Dec. 16 to administer the Pfizer/BioNTech Covid-19 vaccine to children between the ages of 5 and 11.
Around 80 percent of Brazilian adults have had at least one dose of vaccine, but Bolsonaro has sought to create obstacles to inoculating youngsters, going so far as to demand the release of the names of the Anvisa scientists who granted approval.
On Dec. 30, the federal education ministry issued an order Thursday prohibiting schools from requiring students to get the Covid-19 vaccine.
Bolsonaro’s administration also issued a directive to require a doctor’s prescription for vaccination of children under 12, only for the National Council of Health Secretaries to issue a statement vowing to “facilitate the vaccination of all little Brazilians.”
The 27 health secretaries cited a 2020 decision by Brazil’s Supreme Court that state and municipal governments are free to adopt the measures they decide are appropriate to deal with the pandemic.
Sao Paulo health officials say they expect to vaccinate the state’s 4.3 million eligible children in a matter of weeks.
Brazil, like other countries, is experiencing a surge in new infections due to the Omicron variant, though fatalities are not increasing at the same pace.
Deaths per day are currently running at less than 200, compared with 4,500 a day in April 2021.
The Brazilian president is the world’s most prominent pandemic denialist, repeatedly dismissing Covid-19 as a “measly flu,” denouncing state and municipal governments for mask mandates and other preventive measures and resisting calls to address the economic effects of the public health crisis. EFE ag/dr