BRASILIA (Reuters) – Brazil’s right-wing President Jair Bolsonaro, who has consistently downplayed the severity of the coronavirus outbreak, reiterated on Thursday that COVID-19 vaccinations will not be obligatory when they become available.
“Many people want the vaccine to be applied in a coercive way, but there is no law that provides for that,” Bolsonaro said in a Facebook live chat with his supporters.
Vice President Hamilton Mourão said earlier that mass vaccination was inevitable to fight the pandemic in Brazil, but was firmly in line with Bolsonaro’s stance.
“There is no way for the government – unless we live in a dictatorship – to force everyone to get vaccinated,” Mourão said in a radio interview.
In the second worst outbreak outside of the United States, Brazil has recorded more than 4 million confirmed cases of coronavirus and the official death toll from COVID-19 has risen to 124,614, the health ministry said.
In the 24 hours preceding Thursday afternoon, 43,773 new cases were reported in the country and there were 834 deaths from the virus.
Brazil last month signed an agreement with AstraZeneca to buy 30 million doses of the vaccine it is developing with Oxford University, with an option for 70 million more doses if the vaccine works.
Latin America’s most populous country has become a key testing ground for a COVID-19 vaccines and has approved phase 3 clinical trials for four that are under development, by Oxford University/AstraZeneca, China’s Sinovac Biotech, and Pfizer Inc in partnership with BioNTech and Johnson & Johnson’s pharmaceutical subsidiary Janssen.
(Reporting by Ricardo Brito; Editing by Tom Brown)