More than 300 Brazilians gathered on São Paulo’s main commercial thoroughfare on Sunday to protest state Governor João Doria’s support for mandatory COVID-19 immunization and to test the potential vaccine developed by China’s Sinovac.
Doria has previously spoken in favor of making immunizations mandatory once vaccines are available, sparking a spat with President Jair Bolsonaro, who vows it will be voluntary. The Supreme Court’s chief justice has said the court would ultimately decide on the issue.
Several vaccines are obligatory in Brazil, including, for example, Hepatitis B, which is given to newborns. Brazil has had great success with massive vaccination campaigns in the past, eradicating polio in the 1980s.
In São Paulo, the Sinovac vaccine is being tested as part of phase III clinical trials with support from the Doria government.
Last month, Brazil’s federal health ministry announced it would buy 46 million doses of the vaccine, contingent on regulatory approval, in a deal supported by state governors. But a day later, President Jair Bolsonaro said that Brazil would not buy the vaccine.
Bolsonaro has bashed China intermittently since the campaign trail in 2018 over the Asian countries’ growing investments and influence in Brazil.
The protestors in São Paulo rallied in support of Bolsonaro, with one demonstrator holding a sign saying, “We are not guinea pigs” and another in a mask that said “no vaccine.” Many of the tightly packed protestors did not wear masks.
“We’re against the authoritarian Chinese ambassador João Doria, who would now make the vaccine compulsory against our wishes,” protestor Andre Petros said.
“This doesn’t happen anywhere in the world, not even in China.”