BRASILIA (Reuters) – Brazil President Jair Bolsonaro, who says he won’t take any COVID-19 shot, on Thursday vowed to quickly inoculate all Brazilians, tempering his tone after his support fell due to a patchy vaccine rollout and a brutal second wave of infections.
Bolsonaro has been widely criticized for his handling of the pandemic. Critics say the slow vaccine rollout is the latest in a long line of fumblings that have blighted Brazil with the second-highest coronavirus death toll in the world after the United States.
But on Thursday, the president sought to defend his government’s vaccine procurement.
“Europe and some countries in South America don’t have vaccines. And we know that the demand is high. We have signed deals, contracts, from last September, with various companies, and the vaccines are starting to arrive,” he said at an event. “They will arrive and will vaccinate the whole population in a short space of time.”
Bolsonaro’s comments reflect a change of tone in recent weeks, as many have been angered by the president’s failure to quickly vaccinate Brazil’s 210 million people. His personal pledge not to take any shot has stoked growing anti-vaccine sentiment.
The end of a COVID-19 welfare scheme, and a sharp rise in new infections, have also dented his popularity.
Brazil is predominantly reliant on a Chinese shot, developed by Sinovac Biotech, but is awaiting a shipment of active ingredient from China needed to domestically producer an AstraZeneca vaccine. In the meantime, the country has received 2 million ready-to-use AstraZeneca shots until the active ingredient arrives.
(Reporting by Lisandra Paraguassu; Editing by Alistair Bell)