Brazil’s President Says COVID-19 Vaccinations Will Not Be Mandatory

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Brazil’s President Jair Bolsonaro told the country on Thursday that COVID-19 vaccinations will not be obligatory when they become available.

“Many people want the vaccine to be applied in a coercive way, but there is no law that provides for that,” Bolsonaro said via Facebook Live. The right-wing leader also stated that vaccines developed in the United States, the European Union, Japan, and China, while “scientifically proven in these other countries,” would require further examination to be used for Brazil’s immunizations.

The remarks come the same week that Brazil’s coronavirus cases surpassed 4 million, showing no signs of slowing down.

Bolsonaro has been widely condemned for his laissez-faire attitude towards the virus, despite testing positive for COVID-19. Brazil has registered 4,041,638 cases of the virus since the pandemic began. The official death toll stands at 124,614, according to ministry data. Brazil’s coronavirus cases are second only to the United States.

Vice President Hamilton Mourão, who is in favor of mass vaccinations, backed Bolsanaro’s announcement. “There is no way for the government — unless we live in a dictatorship — to force everyone to get vaccinated,” Mourão said in a radio interview.

On Tuesday, Bolsonaro extended payments for low-income Brazilians hit by the COVID-19 economic fallout until the end of the year. The announcement led to a spike in popularity for the leading politician.

Still, financial experts are concerned about the long-term financial implications the program will have on the country’s economy. Economy Minister Paulo Guedes told congress that extending the stipends for four months will cost another 100 billion reais ($18.6 billion).

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