Michelle Bolsonaro, Brazil’s first lady and wife of the country’s far-right, anti-vaccine president Jair Bolsonaro, got herself vaccinated against the coronavirus in New York last week, prompting a backlash in her home country.
The couple were in the US last week for the UN General Assembly (UNGA) meeting, where Ms Bolsonaro’s unvaccinated husband delivered a speech, allegedly in violation of New York’s health protocols.
”Taking a vaccine is a personal decision. My wife (Michelle Bolsonaro), for example, decided to take it in the United States. I did not take it,” Mr Bolsonaro said in an interview published by Veja magazine last week.
The revelation has led to accusations that by choosing to get inoculated abroad, Ms Bolsonaro risks undermining the credibility of her home country’s vaccination campaign.
Brazilian senator Randolfe Rodrigues described the decision as “unfortunate”.
“It devalues the health authorities, devalues a conquest of the country that is already more than 30 years old, such as the National Immunisation Programme (sic),” said Mr Rodrigues, who is also the vice chairman of the Parliamentary Investigation Commission (CPI), which is probing allegations of corruption against the president over vaccine purchases.
Senator Omar Aziz, the president of the CPI, also criticised the first lady’s decision.
“Someone had to tell her that the vaccine they apply in the United States is the same that is applied in Brazil,” Mr Aziz was quoted as saying by news agency Merco Press.
“She could well have been vaccinated in Brazil and show it to everyone, to set a good example. If that had been the case, we would have seen an act of real patriotism, not lip service,” he added.
Clarifying the decision to get vaccinated in the US, Ms Bolsonaro was quoted as saying she did so after the American doctor assisting her in getting a Covid test recommended she get jabbed.
“Before returning to the country, she [Ms Bolsonaro] underwent the PCR test, which is mandatory for boarding authorisation and, during the test, the first lady was asked by the doctor if she would like to take the opportunity to be vaccinated,” said a note from the country’s Special Secretariat for Social Communication.
“As she was already thinking about receiving the vaccine, she decided to accept it. The first lady reiterates her admiration and respect for the Brazilian health system, especially for professionals in the area who are tirelessly dedicated to caring for the health of the people,” it added.
Meanwhile, during Mr Bolsonaro’s trip to New York, four members of his delegation tested positive for Covid.
They included Brazil’s health minister Marcelo Queiroga, Mr Bolsonaro’s son Eduardo Bolsonaro, economist Pedro Duarte Guimarães and a Brazilian diplomat.
While Mr Guimarães and Mr Quieroga said they were fully vaccinated, the Brazilian president was roundly criticised for putting others at risk.
All the members of Mr Bolsonaro’s delegation are isolating in Brazil as they were in direct contact with the health minister.
The unvaccinated head of state remained defiant on the coronavirus pandemic at the UNGA meet, where he was the first speaker.
“Under the mottos ‘stay at home’ and ‘we will deal with the economy later on,’ they almost brought about social chaos to the country,” said Mr Bolsonaro in his speech, criticising pandemic-related lockdown measures.
“But our administration, in a bold step put in place several economic measures that prevented a greater evil,” added Mr Bolsonaro, under whom Brazil has reported over 21 million coronavirus cases since the start of the pandemic last year.
Both Mr and Ms Bolsonaro tested negative for Covid-19 on Sunday, reported The New York Times.
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