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Bolsonaro appoints 4th health minister, orders vaccines en masse

Jair Bolsonaro still changes Minister of Health, in the midst of the coronavirus health crisis: the Brazilian president said on Monday that he would replace Eduardo Pazuello, who had just announced the order of 138 million doses to accelerate a vaccination campaign still too much slow.

General Eduardo Pazuello, devoid of any medical experience, had been appointed to this post by interim after the resignation in mid-May 2020 of oncologist Nelson Teich. The latter had resigned less than a month after his appointment for having opposed, like his predecessor Luiz Henrique Mandetta, the drugs recommended by Jair Bolsonaro to treat the virus, while none had scientifically proven their effectiveness.

Hospitals on the verge of saturation

Eduardo Pazuello knew he was leaving and had earlier indicated at a press conference that the far-right president was seeking to replace him in order to “reorganize” the ministry. “I have decided this evening to appoint Marcelo Queiroga Minister of Health,” said Jair Bolsonaro during a brief meeting with his supporters at the presidential palace. The transition “should take two to three weeks,” he added.

The appointment of Marcelo Queiroga, president of the Brazilian Society of Cardiology (SBC), comes as the epidemic continues to worsen in Brazil. Hospitals are on the verge of saturation in most states and more than 2,000 daily deaths have been recorded on multiple occasions in the past week.

“A more aggressive phase in the fight against the virus”

Vaccination in Brazil, the second most bereaved country with nearly 280,000 dead, did not begin until mid-January, with only the AstraZeneca and CoronaVac vaccines, from the Chinese laboratory Sinovac. It continues at a slow pace due to lack of doses. Some 9.8 million people received the first dose, or about 4.6% of the population, and 3.6 million only the second.

“Pazuello has done a good job, his management has been good”, praised Jair Bolsonaro, but “from now on we are moving to a more aggressive phase in the fight against the virus”. Under pressure because of his chaotic management of the health crisis, the Head of State very recently changed his speech concerning vaccination, admitting that it is essential for economic activity to fully resume in the country of 212 million inhabitants.

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For epidemiologist Mauro Sanchez, of the University of Brasilia, the new minister will have the delicate task of trying to operate a “change of course” in the health policy of Brazil, which has become the global epicenter of the pandemic. “Without control of the pandemic and with the emergence of new changes, Brazil is perceived as a threat,” he said.

100 million doses of Pfizer-BioNTech vaccine

Before being fired, Eduardo Pazuello announced on Monday that the government had purchased 100 million doses of the Pfizer-BioNTech vaccine, which should be delivered by September, and that in the second half of the year 38 million doses of the vaccine should be delivered. Janssen, of the American pharmaceutical company Johnson & Johnson. These orders bring to 563 million the number of doses purchased by Brazil from several laboratories.

The first doses of Pfizer’s vaccine, recently finalized by Brazilian regulatory agency Anvisa, should not arrive before April, however. And nearly half of the 100 million doses (46.5 million) are not expected until September.

“Transformed into a crocodile”

The Brazilian government had been offered 70 million doses by the American laboratory as of August 2020, but the negotiations were unsuccessful, Brasilia having rejected a disclaimer. In December, President Bolsonaro created controversy by asserting that with this clause, the laboratory would not be held responsible if people were “turned into crocodiles” because of supposed side effects. The Bolsonaro government is also in negotiations for the acquisition of 13 million doses from the American laboratory Moderna.

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More than a third of the approximately 563 million doses of vaccine on which the ministry relies by the end of the year will come from that of AstraZeneca, whose injections have been suspended by several European countries in recent days, due to fears , never confirmed, related to blood clots. This did not prevent the Anvisa agency from issuing its final authorization on Friday, for 210 million doses which will be largely produced locally, by the Fiocruz Institute in Rio de Janeiro.

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