After months of ignoring guidelines from the World Health Organization (WHO) to fight the covid-19 pandemic, President Jair Bolsonaro framed the Health Minister so that he, based on statements by the organisation’s director-general, Tedros Adhanom, would prohibit vaccination against covid-19 in children and adolescents. The target of attacks and disqualification by the Pocketinarians, Tedros needed to provide Bolsonaro with basic information about the immunization agents in order to correct the Brazilian president’s mistaken insinuations.
The three spoke informally this Sunday, 31, with the help of a translator, in Rome, Italy, where Jair Bolsonaro is taking part in a G20 meeting. During the interaction, the president demanded a position from the minister on children at least three times.
“Queiroga, his words: WHO does not recommend the vaccine for children. We have to have a note in this regard, saying that the WHO does not recommend it”, he said. “This issue of child vaccination has to have a note from you, based on the WHO”, he insisted. “You can’t leave governor at ease. You have to write this, Queiroga”.
The video of the meeting was posted on Jair Bolsonaro’s official profiles. However, the recording was edited in such a way that it did not include Tedros Adhanom’s full response on the WHO position regarding the immunization of children.
Planalto only showed the part where the director says that studies are still in progress. However, the WHO has already manifested itself about vaccinating this group. In May, he asked developed countries to suspend the application to children because underdeveloped nations had not yet managed to vaccinate risk groups and health professionals. The WHO director at the time claimed that they were advancing “at the expense of health workers and high-risk groups in other countries.”
In addition, the WHO officially recognizes the Pfizer studies that pointed to the safety and efficacy of the immunizing agent for young people over 12 years of age, as already used in Brazil. On Friday, 29, the Food and Drug Administration (FDA), an agency in the United States similar to the National Health Surveillance Agency (Anvisa), authorized the application of the immunizing agent in children aged between 5 and 11 years. Pfizer will make the order for use in the same audience to Anvisa, in November. Agency directors received death threats to take a stand against. All vaccines used in Brazil, for any public, depend on Anvisa’s endorsement.
Queiroga nodded at being charged by Bolsonaro and said he had held talks with UK leaders about how to protect children, considering they “are in no position to decide.” “We talked about this topic, about vaccination of children, in the sense of trying to force fathers and mothers to vaccinate children in every way. Because the child is not in a position to decide”, said Queiroga, before being interrupted by Bolsonaro.
The WHO support that Bolsonaro sought in giving the order to Queiroga contrasts with the relationship that the Chief Executive had with the organization during most of the pandemic. The president disdained the organization’s general guidelines on, for example, social distancing and wearing masks. He insisted on ineffective remedies even after the organization also concluded that they didn’t work.
In live broadcasts, Bolsonaro came to disdain Tedros’ guidance. “I’m answering processes inside and outside Brazil, being accused of genocide, for having defended a different thesis of the WHO. People talk so much about following the WHO. Is the chief executive of WHO a physician? Not a doctor! Did you know that?” he said in April 2020.
In another part of the conversation in Rome, Tedros had to explain the “be-a-ba” of the functioning of vaccines to Bolsonaro in order to counteract mistaken statements. The president told him that “in Brazil, many who took the second dose are contracting the virus,” information widely disseminated by groups that try to deny the effectiveness of the immunizing agent.
“The vaccine does not prevent infection, but it prevents a serious disease, it prevents death, death. And that is the purpose”, explained Tedros. Bolsonaro insisted with another false version, that “many people” are dying even with the second dose. Once again, the Director-General of WHO clarified: “Without vaccination, the severity of the disease is highly probable. With vaccination, it is less serious. But, as you said, there may still be some (deaths), yes, especially those who have some comorbidity or some other conditions”.
At the end of the conversation, Queiroga told Tedros that all vaccines in Brazil were purchased by Bolsonaro. The president used the cue to complain that, even so, he is being investigated for his conduct in fighting the disease and accused of genocide. The Minister of Health laughed when he recalled that he has been suffering the same accusations and laughed when he spoke of the process that will face the International Criminal Court in The Hague. Covid’s CPI will denounce members of the government to the Court. “Me too (I’m accused). I’ll go with him to The Hague, I’ll take a walk there in The Hague”, he said, laughing.
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