The Brazilian Supreme Court has ordered a probe into President Jair Bolsonaro for claiming that COVID-19 vaccines may increase the chances of contracting AIDS.
In a live broadcast on October 24, Bolsonaro said that “official reports from the UK government suggest that fully vaccinated people … are developing acquired immunodeficiency syndrome much faster than anticipated”.
Facebook and Instagram took down that video days later, saying it violates their rules. Bolsonaro was also temporarily suspended from Facebook and YouTube after his comments.
According to the Joint United Nations Programme on HIV and AIDS, COVID-19 vaccines approved by health regulators are safe for most people, including those living with HIV, the virus that causes the acquired immunodeficiency syndrome known as AIDS.
The probe, ordered by Judge Alexandre de Moraes on Friday, paves the way for the country’s top prosecutor, Augusto Aras, to look into the accusation raised by a pandemic inquiry conducted by Brazil’s Senate.
In his ruling, Moraes said that Bolsonaro “used the modus operandi of mass dissemination schemes in social networks”, which requires further investigation.
In October, a Senate investigative committee, known in Portuguese as a CPI, found that Bolsonaro committed nine crimes related to his widely criticised handling of the coronavirus pandemic, including crimes against humanity, and requested that the Supreme Court order a probe.
Moraes implied that he will be closely supervising the probe, as the Supreme Court does not conduct its own investigations.
“In order for judicial supervision to be carried out in an effective and comprehensive manner, it is indispensable that documents be presented showing the status of the investigation in question,” Moraes said.
Bolsonaro, who claims not to have taken the vaccine, has flouted local health protocols since the start of the pandemic and has complained that restrictions aimed at controlling the coronavirus do more harm than good.
He first tested positive for COVID-19 in July 2020, after downplaying the seriousness of the virus for months.
Brazil has reported more than 615,000 deaths due to COVID, second only to the US.