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COVID-19 vaccine can turn people into 'crocodiles': Brazilian President Jair Bolsonaro

Jair Bolsonaro said that once a vaccine has been certified by Brazil's regulatory agency Anvisa, "it will be available for everyone that wants it. But me, I won't get vaccinated."

December 19, 2020 / 05:08 PM IST
Jair Bolsonaro

Jair Bolsonaro

Brazilian President Jair Bolsonaro has launched an attack on coronavirus vaccines, even suggesting that the one developed by Pfizer-BioNTech could turn people into crocodiles or bearded ladies.

The far-right leader has been sceptical of the coronavirus since it first emerged late last year, branding it "a little flu." This week he insisted he would not be vaccinated, even while launching the country's mass innoculation program.

"In the Pfizer contract it's very clear: 'we're not responsible for any side effects.' If you turn into a crocodile, it's your problem," Bolsonaro said on Thursday.

That vaccine has been undergoing tests in Brazil for weeks and is already being used in the United States and Britain.

"If you become superhuman, if a woman starts to grow a beard or if a man starts to speak with an effeminate voice, they will not have anything to do with it," he said, referring to the drug manufacturers.

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COVID-19 Vaccine

Frequently Asked Questions

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How does a vaccine work?

A vaccine works by mimicking a natural infection. A vaccine not only induces immune response to protect people from any future COVID-19 infection, but also helps quickly build herd immunity to put an end to the pandemic. Herd immunity occurs when a sufficient percentage of a population becomes immune to a disease, making the spread of disease from person to person unlikely. The good news is that SARS-CoV-2 virus has been fairly stable, which increases the viability of a vaccine.

How many types of vaccines are there?

There are broadly four types of vaccine — one, a vaccine based on the whole virus (this could be either inactivated, or an attenuated [weakened] virus vaccine); two, a non-replicating viral vector vaccine that uses a benign virus as vector that carries the antigen of SARS-CoV; three, nucleic-acid vaccines that have genetic material like DNA and RNA of antigens like spike protein given to a person, helping human cells decode genetic material and produce the vaccine; and four, protein subunit vaccine wherein the recombinant proteins of SARS-COV-2 along with an adjuvant (booster) is given as a vaccine.

What does it take to develop a vaccine of this kind?

Vaccine development is a long, complex process. Unlike drugs that are given to people with a diseased, vaccines are given to healthy people and also vulnerable sections such as children, pregnant women and the elderly. So rigorous tests are compulsory. History says that the fastest time it took to develop a vaccine is five years, but it usually takes double or sometimes triple that time.

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When launching the immunization campaign on Wednesday, Bolsonaro also said it would be free but not compulsory.

But the Supreme Court on Thursday ruled that the vaccine was obligatory, although could not be "forced" on people.

That means authorities can fine people for not being vaccinated and ban them from certain public spaces, but not force them to take it.

Brazil has recorded more than 7.1 million cases and almost 185,000 deaths from COVID-19 amongst its 212 million population.

Bolsonaro said that once a vaccine has been certified by Brazil's regulatory agency Anvisa, "it will be available for everyone that wants it. But me, I won't get vaccinated."

"Some people say I'm giving a bad example. But to the imbeciles, to the idiots that say this, I tell them I've already caught the virus, I have the antibodies, so why get vaccinated?"

There have been a small number of cases of apparent reinfection although there is no certainty over whether a person can be reinfected or how long immunity lasts.

Bolsonaro caught the virus in July but recovered within three weeks.

Brazil is in the middle of a second wave of coronavirus infections.

After peaking in June to August cases had been dropping but that changed in November.

On Thursday, Brazil surpassed 1,000 daily deaths from covid-19 for the first time since September.

The country's immunization program has been widely criticized for being late and chaotic, not least given Bolsonaro's opposition.
AFP
first published: Dec 19, 2020 05:08 pm

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