President Jair Bolsonaro has criticized Brazilian health regulator Anvisa for authorizing the vaccination of children aged 5 to 11 against Covid-19, reports Reuters, a day after his Minister of Health unveiled his intention to vaccinate this age group.
Vaccine skeptic Bolsonaro said in a radio interview Thursday that he had not heard of children dead from Covid-19 and reiterated that his daughter Laura, 11, would not be vaccinated. Bolsonaro said the vaccines could have side effects in children, but provided no evidence.
Anvisa and health regulators around the world have found that Covid-19 vaccines are safe from 5 years of age.
“Are you going to vaccinate your child when the possibility of dying is almost zero?” What is behind this? What are the interests of vaccine maniacs? Bolsonaro said.
The Department of Health said on Wednesday it had purchased 20 million pediatric vaccines developed by Pfizer Inc and voluntary vaccination of children aged 5 to 11 will begin by the end of the month.
Bolsonaro’s comments came as the health ministry reported 35,826 new cases of coronavirus in the past 24 hours, the highest daily number of infections since September and 128 deaths from Covid.
In a social media post later Thursday, Bolsonaro stressed that vaccination was not mandatory. “No city mayor or state governor can prevent a child from going to school if he has not been vaccinated,” he said.
Bolsonaro has warned that Pfizer does not take responsibility for any side effects the vaccine may have in children, and said parents should immediately see a doctor if their child develops chest pain or shortness of breath.
Anvisa approved the Pfizer vaccine for children on December 16, drawing fierce criticism from those opposed to vaccines and from the president, who suggested that children should only be vaccinated on a doctor’s prescription.
The ministry abandoned the idea because it was impractical. Requiring a written prescription would discourage vaccination at a time when the more transmissible variant of the Omicron coronavirus begins to spread in Brazil, health experts said in a public hearing.
According to the National Council of Secretaries of State for Health, at least 300 children aged 5 to 11 had died in Brazil from Covid-19 in early December.
The Brazilian military disagreed with the president this week on how to deal with Covid-19. He ordered soldiers to get vaccinated, wear masks and maintain social distancing, and warned them against spreading fake news about the pandemic.