RIO DE JANEIRO (AP) — Brazil’s government has presented a Supreme Court justice with a coronavirus immunisation plan that provides initially for only enough shots for about a quarter of the population and does not indicate a start date.
The document, which was made public on Saturday, was submitted by President Jair Bolsonaro’s administration the previous night to judge Ricardo Lewandoswki, who had ordered the report after an opposition political party filed a lawsuit seeking information on the government’s immunisation plans for the pandemic.
The plan calls for the government to provide immunisation shots for priority groups that amount to about 51 million people, just under 25 per cent of Brazil’s 212 million people. The first of four phases for vaccinating those groups include health workers, people older than 80 and Indigenous peoples.
Signed by Health Minister Eduardo Pazuello, the document said, however, that “the interruption of the circulation of COVID-19 in the national territory depends on a highly effective vaccine” being administered to over 70 per cent of the population.
No date is given for starting to give out immunisation shots. Brazil’s health regulator, Anvisa, has not yet approved the use of any coronavirus vaccine in the country.
In addition, the plan said that to avoid the collapse of Brazil’s health services, it may be necessary to “maintain social distancing measures for one to two years” — the type of pandemic restriction that often criticised by Bolsonaro, who argues that economic damage from lockdowns and other pandemic strictures will cause more harm to the country than the illnesses and deaths from the virus.
Bolsonaro, who recovered from COVID-19 earlier this year and has said he will not make immunisation mandatory, has been the target of criticism from several Brazilian state governors and health experts over what they consider delay by the federal government in organising an immunisation plan.
Brazil has registered over 180,000 deaths from COVID-19, the second highest number in the world. In recent weeks it has seen an acceleration in the rate of coronavirus infections and several states report occupancy of hospitals’ intensive care beds above 80 per cent.
Bolsonaro, meanwhile, said last Thursday at an official ceremony that Brazil is experiencing “the end of the pandemic”.
Accusing the government of foot-dragging, Sao Paulo Governor Joao Doria already unveiled an immunisation plan of his own for his state that has a goal of beginning vaccinations on January 25.