- Vaccine protests in Brazil over the weekend raised the stakes over whether COVDI-19 vaccinations will be mandatory.
- Populist President Jair Bolsonaro has said vaccines will not be mandatory. At least one government, in the state of Sao Paulo, has said the opposite.
- Brazil is one of the country’s worst hit by COVID-19 and the issue of vaccination has been divisive.
Vaccine protests in Brazil over the weekend when sympathizers of President Jair Bolsonaro staged widespread protests against the possibility that vaccinations against SARS-CoV-2 could be mandatory. The mandatory vaccination campaign could take place in the state of Sao Paulo.
Bolsonaro, a populist right-wing president, has previously said that mandatory vaccinations are out of the question.
“The vaccine won´t be mandatory,” Bolsonaro tweeted on October 24.
Despite Bolsonaro’s tweets, mandatory vaccinations are possible, if not necessarily likely.
A mandatory vaccination campaign is possible but unlikely.
Benny Spiewak, a lawyer and partner at SPLaw, a Sao Paulo law firm that specializes in life sciences, told Anticentric that Brazil’s legal framework allows authorities to enforce a mandatory vaccination campaign.
“We are living in a pandemic. Anything that goes into play and that is safe and efficient, should be embraced by the population. On the other hand, we do have a government that already mentioned and tweeted that it will not make it required for Brazilians to take the shot,” said Spiewak.
Vaccine protests in Brazil after tweets
Despite Bolsonaro’s tweets and reassurances that a Covid-19 vaccine will only be voluntary decision, his government issued a regulation back in March that would make it compulsory for Brazilians to obey pandemic-related rules.
“According to that specific piece of legislation, the government could indeed enforce its ability to make vaccination mandatory. On the other hand, I don’t see it happening. We don’t see the federal government enforcing shots on anyone. It’s quite a confusing scenario that we are having here,” said Spiewak.
• Measles and COVID-19: Indonesia’s battles against vaccine hesitancy highlight challenges for Muslim world
• With their loud and effective campaigns, anti-vaxxers could hurt efforts to build COVID-19 herd immunity
Confusion spiked after the governor of Sao Paulo, Joao Doria, announced that the state of Sao Paulo is moving forward with trials and acquiring CoronaVac, the COVID-19 vaccine developed by Chinese biotech company Sinovac. Doria also suggested taking a vaccine will be mandatory for the about 44 million people living in the state.
“In Sao Paulo, it will be mandatory, except for those who have medical advice and a certificate that they cannot take it,” said Doria during a press conference. “And we will adopt legal measures if there is any contradiction in this regard.”
Those comments pushed hundreds into vaccine protests in Brazil against a mandatory vaccination campaign.
Several Brazilian states are testing CoronaVac as well as the Russian vaccine Sputnik V, developed by Moscow’s Gamaleya Institute. At the federal level, Bolsonaro’s government is testing a vaccine developed by the University of Oxford.
“Sao Paulo, free of a mandatory vaccine,” tweeted Marta Elisabeth Nixdorf, a journalist and conservative activist.
Courts likely to step in on mandatory vaccination
And protesters take the debate to the streets, many expect the country’s federal Supreme Court to solve the issue.
The president of the country’s supreme court has already said that a court decision is necessary to address “individual freedom, but also regarding the prerequisites for adopting a vaccine”.
Bolsonaro has poured fuel on the fire and railed against his own government’s rules saying any vaccination will be mandatory only for his dog Faisca.
“-Good evening everyone. Mandatory vaccination only here for Faisca,” tweeted Bolsonaro.
Brazil is a hotspot for Covid-19. The country has the third highest number of cases in the world, with more than 5.5 million people infected and over 160,000 deaths.