Analysis & Comment

Opinion | Bolsonaro Tried to Stop Kids Getting Vaccinated, and Failed


By Vanessa Barbara

Ms. Barbara is a contributing Opinion writer who focuses on Brazilian politics, culture and everyday life.

SÃO PAULO, Brazil — Every day, I have the same wish: that my 3½ -year-old daughter can get her Covid-19 vaccine.

Last year she seemed to be constantly sick. She was often feverish and coughing, or her nose was runny and her throat sore. She endured four P.C.R. tests and seven rapid tests (in March, one confirmed she had the virus). We basically spent the year swabbing her tiny nostrils and pulling her out of school every time a student or teacher tested positive.

At times, it could be funny. Just imagine a small child wondering aloud, in the most serious voice, whether she caught the coronavirus because she took off her dinosaur face mask at snack time. But it was mostly exhausting and frightening. Our daughter was building her immune system in the middle of a pandemic, and there was very little we could do about it.

I certainly couldn’t count on our president. True to form, Jair Bolsonaro has been making an already difficult situation worse. After failing to sabotage the vaccination campaigns for adults and teenagers, he’s been concentrating his efforts on undermining vaccination for kids. But against the force of our health system — and Brazilians’ mighty appetite for vaccines — his evil plans have foundered.

Scaremongering is Mr. Bolsonaro’s preferred method. He’s suggested that the vaccine’s collateral effects are “unknown” and that we don’t have an “antidote” to them. Casting himself as a wise uncle, though a totally delusional one, he advised parents to “not be fooled by the propaganda” around children’s vaccination. “My 11-year-old daughter will not be vaccinated,” he informed the country, solemnly. (Pity that poor child.)

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