Scepticism towards a COVID-19 vaccine has increased in Brazil during the past months, a new poll showed on Saturday, as the country continues to grapple with high infection and death rates linked to the virus.
The Datafolha polling institute’s survey found that 22 percent of Brazilians said they would be unwilling to take any COVID-19 vaccine, up from 9 percent in August.
The survey also found that 73 percent of respondents planned to take a shot and 5 percent said they did not know if they would. Those figures were at 89 percent and 3 percent in August, respectively.
President Jair Bolsonaro has expressed doubt and opposition to using an inoculant to get the COVID-19 pandemic under control.
Brazil has the third-highest number of COVID-19 cases in the world, with more than 6.8 million infections since the pandemic began. More than 180,000 people have died, as well – the second-highest death count globally after the United States.
Bolsonaro has been one of the most prominent sceptics of COVID-19 among world leaders, repeatedly downplaying the virus’s severity, criticising lockdowns and touting unproven remedies.
In November, he said he would not take any COVID-19 vaccine that became available, while adding that it was his “right” to refuse.
Bolsonaro specifically expressed scepticism about the inoculant being developed by China’s Sinovac and produced in conjunction with the Sao Paulo state government’s Butantan Institute.
According to the Datafolha poll, only 47 percent of respondents said they would take a vaccine made in China, while 50 percent said they would not take it. Three percent said they were undecided.
The data also showed a correlation between rejecting a vaccine and trust in Bolsonaro.
Thirty-three percent of people who said they always trust Bolsonaro also said they are unwilling to take the shot, compared with 16 percent who said they never trust him and are also unwilling to take a shot.
Meanwhile, health experts recently decried Bolsonaro’s apparent attempts to assert control over the country’s independent health regulators, Anvisa, which they worry could politicise the approval of a vaccine.
On November 12, Bolsonaro nominated a retired soldier with no background in medicine or vaccine development, Jorge Luiz Kormann, to take one of Anvisa’s five director posts.
Kormann would lead a unit responsible for greenlighting vaccines.
If the Senate confirmed Kormann, Bolsonaro’s allies would occupy three of the health regulator’s five seats, giving them a majority in all agency decisions.