The absence of the covid-19 vaccine developed by the Butantan Institute in partnership with the Chinese pharmaceutical company Sinovac – the so-called Coronavac – caused a fair perplexity among the state health secretaries in the schedule of the National Immunization Program (PNI) recently presented by the Ministry of Health The fact should also indignate any citizen in good faith in this country, as it is, of course, yet another reflection of the unacceptable politicization of public health that has been the keynote of President Jair Bolsonaro’s performance since the beginning of the pandemic.
The vaccine against covid-19, whatever it may be, wherever it comes from, is the last hope for millions of Brazilians afflicted with the terrible numbers of the disease in the country: more than 5 million confirmed cases and almost 153 thousand deaths.
Jair Bolsonaro’s afflictions are of a different nature. The president fears the alleged political setbacks that the success of the “Chinese vaccine of Doria”, in reference to the governor of São Paulo, João Doria (PSDB), may cause in his claim to be reelected in 2022. He is inhuman and unworthy.
For any president of the Republic who is minimally aware of the responsibility of the position he holds, political calculation should be the last of his worries when what is at stake is the lives of millions of his fellow citizens.
The vaccine against covid-19 – or vaccines, given that three or four developing immunizers have good prospects for success – must be safe and effective. If these two conditions are present, no matter the origin, the federal government must strive to ensure that the largest number of Brazilians receive it in the shortest possible time. Our health authorities are not lacking competence for a challenge of this magnitude. PNI is a virtuous example. It is the largest public vaccination program in the world. Approximately 300 million doses against more than 30 diseases are applied annually in 36 thousand health centers spread across the national territory.
In a letter to Health Minister Eduardo Pazuello, the National Council of Health Secretaries (Conass) asked the Ministry not to discard Coronavac in the 2021 PNI. The program, as presented, includes the vaccine under development by Fiocruz in partnership with the University of Oxford and the pharmaceutical company AstraZeneca, entities with which the federal government signed a partnership agreement.
“Conass cordially requests the Ministry of Health to adopt the necessary and immediate measures to incorporate into the PNI the vaccine for covid-19 produced by the Butantan Institute, in partnership with the pharmaceutical company Sinovac Life Science, as well as any other vaccines produced and tested by other industries, ”says an excerpt from the letter to Minister Pazuello.
The content of the Minister of Health’s response to the appeal by Conass is not known, but it is all the better for the country if Pazuello takes into account only technical criteria for including a vaccine against covid-19 in the PNI, and not some obscure command of a political nature . There are signs that this will be the case. In a note, the folder said that any vaccine that is safe and effective “will be an option for purchase”.
If until now the absolute lack of national coordination of efforts to combat the pandemic has become apparent, it is not too late for the federal government, through the Ministry of Health, to coordinate the purchase and distribution of vaccines that most quickly obtain registration with the National Health Agency. Health Surveillance (Anvisa). It is not unlikely that more than one vaccine will be needed to account for vaccination coverage for all Brazilians who need to be immunized against the new coronavirus.
The incorporation into the PNI of the long-awaited vaccine against covid-19 cannot be guided by criteria that escape science and, not least, empathy and compassion. It is the safeguarding of the health of the Brazilian population that we are dealing with. This must be the essential guide for decisions by public leaders worthy of the name.