Since the beginning of the pandemic, Bolsonaro, the president of Brazil, has advocated the so-called "early treatment" for COVID-19, which would include the use of drugs such as Chloroquine, Hydroxychloroquine and Ivermectin. Medicines that are proven to have no antiviral effect and have no scientific support for the treatment of the disease. The speech used by the government today is the same used in the case of the phosphoethanolamine compound, where Bolsonaro found one of the themes that generated one of his only two bill proposals in more than 30 years of legislative career. The miraculous pill against cancer had no evidence of effectiveness against cancer at all, and his speech at the time already involved conspiracy theories ranging from medical mafias to pharmaceutical industries cartels.
The narrative at the time is that, since there was no proof of inefficiency, the pill should be released for use. At the time, the bill was sanctioned by President Dilma Rousseff on the eve of her impeachment, but was barred in the Supreme Court. The so-called "early treatment" is a repetition of history, from which Brazil has not learned its lesson. On January 11, Eduardo Pazuello (General of the Brazilian army and minister of health) sat in front of the senators for a public hearing. Images of deaths from suffocation in hospitals and serial burials in Manaus were spread to the world. There was not, as there is not yet, a detailed immunization plan for Brazilians.
On the contrary, the minister and his superior, Jair Bolsonaro, fought against the well established facts and against the right wing governor of São Paulo João Doria in the episode that became known as the “war of vaccines”. Pressed, Pazuello denied that afternoon to the senators and to the media that the government would have finance, promote or indicate the use of chloroquine and other unproven medicines in the fight against covid19. "The Ministry of Health does not define which medicine is used for medicine protocol", "This is the official position."
Bolsonaro is said to have decided to promote chloroquine to please Donald Trump. At the time president of the United States, Trump had a particular interest in the drug, as he was an investor in Fran Sanofi Aventis, the only foreign laboratory authorized to sell the pills to Brazil. According to a New York Times report, the billionaire Ken Fisher, one of the biggest donors to the Republican Party, is also among Sanofi's shareholders, while former Commerce Secretary Wilb managed a fund with large investments in the company.
In June 2020, the Ministry of Foreign Affairs established a partnership with Washington and received a donation of 2 million doses of hydroxychloroquine, that were close to its expiration date. Ernesto Araújo, head of the foreign affairs ministry, celebrated: “Brazil-USA cooperation in the fight against Covid-19 continues to advance. We will collaborate with the USA in the clinical research of hydroxychloroquine and in the development of a vaccine”.
Bolsonaro often uses his livestream on Thursdays to “spontaneously advertise” the product. Reuquinol, a label name for chloroquine, is one of the former captain's favorites. He even displayed a box during a meeting of the G-20, the club of the 20 largest economies on the planet. An addendum: Bolsonaro is the only one of the G-20 presidents who openly refuses to take the Covid-19 vaccine.
Bolsonaro has been harshly criticized for the fact that the federal government has signed an agreement with just one laboratory, the British AstraZeneca, for the production of the immunizing agent at the Oswaldo Cruz Foundation (Fiocruz) and for not having given political and logistical support to the development of the Coronavac, developed by the Butantan Institute, a biological research center in the state of São Paulo.
Denying reality to escape an uncomfortable truth is one of Bolsonaro's weapons. In all scientific fields, he demonstrates to have a post-truth, where he has no domain, and yet he insists on making statements based on fallacies and lies. The use of such devices shows that for Bolsonaro anything goes to stay in power.
To remain in power, he has already “prescribed” a medicine that doesn't work; despised the importance of wearing masks ; insisted to shake hands to greet allies; removed a child's mask. Furthermore, he reaffirms that avoiding agglomerations makes no difference to preventing contagion. It's important to remember that for him covid-19 is "just a flu" and that we shouldn't be so worried.
In testimony to the Parliamentary Commission of Investigation of the Pandemic in the Federal Senate, former Health Minister Eduardo Pazuello already stated about the lack of oxygen in the State of Amazonas since January 10, four days before the capital Manaus collapsed due to the lack of hospital supplies in its network of health occurred on January 14th. Pazuello was warned about the lack of oxygen in Manaus by members of the government of Amazonas, by the company that supplies the product (due to the increase in the volume of "planned" acquisition of supply) and even by his sister-in-law who had a relative "without oxygen to get through the day”. Pazuello was also informed about logistical problems with shipments.
He also stated that the lack of oxygen in the Amazon lasted only "two to three days". However, this data is incorrect, since the real lack of supply was closer to 20 calendar days.
In this timeline of "two to three days", the following data were recorded in Amazonas:
- Dr. José Lins Medical Center: according to a letter signed by the director of the unit, Raimunda Gomes Pinheiro, there were 7 deaths on the 14th and 4 on the 15th. The document informs that the patients were hospitalized and died due to the interruption in the flow of oxygen.
- Dr. Danilo Corrêa Medical Center: registered 7 deaths. The general director of the unit, Patrícia Castro, informed in the official letter that despite the deaths occurring in these two critical days in the supply of oxygen, the cause of death of none appears in the medical records as suffocation.
- Alvorada Medical Center: unit registered 3 deaths on the 14th and another 3 on the 15th. According to a document signed by the general director Jorge Amorim Filho, the deaths occurred after the interruption of the oxygen flow.
- Getúlio Vargas University Hospital (HUGV): reported that it recorded 4 deaths of patients, dependent on ventilation, who died with the interruption of oxygen flow. According to the document signed by the Superintendent of HUGV, Júlio Mário de Melo e Lima, the interruption in the flow of oxygen at the HUGV only occurred between 6:49 am and 9:50 am on the 14th, when these deaths occurred. Note: At HUGV, on these dates, supplies were purchased by the patients' companions, and doctors took cylinders in their own cars.
- Tropical Medicine Foundation: reported the record of 3 deaths on January 14 of oxygen-dependent patients, as reported by the institution's CEO, dr. Marcus Vinícius de Farias Guerra.
Documents obtained by the Public Prosecutor's Office indicate that 31 people died from lack of oxygen in Manaus on January 14th and 15th, when the capital reached the peak of lack of oxygen supplies. In this chaotic period, the city had to send patients who depended on the input to other states, and relatives of hospitalized people had to buy oxygen cylinders on their own. In all, during this period 23 people died of asphyxia in the state countryside and 28 on the Amazonia state's Capital, Manaus. As only 5 of the 11 health units in the capital responded to questions from the Federal Public Ministry, the number could be even higher.
On May 6th 2021 the deputy governor of the state of Amazonas, Carlos Almeida Filho, said that the alignment of the governor of his state with the President of Brazil, Jair Bolsonaro, transformed Manaus into a laboratory that created the P.1 strain ( Amazon strain) of covid-19. He stated that Governor Wilson Lima took measures indicated by Bolsonaro to achieve so-called herd immunity through the contamination of the population by covid-19 after being the target of a police investigation.
The investigation into suspected irregularities in the purchase of the Indian vaccine Covaxin was already in the hands of the Federal Prosecutor's Office and the TCU (Brazilian Court of Auditors), but it entered the path of the Pandemic Comission of Investigation after the explosive statements by the congressman Luís Miranda (DEM-DF). On TV, Miranda said he had warned Bolsonaro about the alleged problems with the contract, worth 1.6 billion Reais. Miranda says he warned the president that his brother, Luís Ricardo Fernandes Miranda, an official at the Ministry of Health, received unusual pressure to make the payment to an intermediary who sold Covaxin, produced by the Indian company Barath Biotech.
The warn was made in person to the president by the congressman and by Fernandes Miranda on March 20, at an unofficial meeting at the Palácio da Alvorada, the Brazilian head office. Even in the face of warnings and promises of Bolsonaro who, according to the Miranda brothers, said he would order the investigation of the case, it is not clear what was done. The warning would have also been given to the Health Minister at the time, General Eduardo Pazuello. In response to these claims, the Government's reaction was against the whistleblowers.
The minister of the General Secretariat of the Presidency of the Republic, Onyx Lorenzoni (DEM-RS), said that the Government will sue deputy Miranda for slanderous denunciation. His brother will also be prosecuted for the same offense, for fraud in official documents and for malfeasance because, according to the Government, he did not reveal the irregularities to the immediate superiors. The purchase of the Covaxin vaccine was mediated by Precisa Medicamentos. This was the most expensive immunizing agent purchased by the Brazilian government, at a cost of 15 US dollars per dose and the only one that was not dealt directly with the manufacturing laboratory.
The Parlamentary Comission of Investigation had already suspected the business between the Ministry of Health and the company for three reasons: 1) the price, way above the other vaccines that had been purchased so far, costing a maximum of 10 US dollars; 2) the unusual short time from the start of negotiations and the signing of the contract, which took about three months, while the process of Pfizer, for example, took almost 11 months; and 3) the controller of Precisa, Francisco Emerson Maximiano, is investigated for having signed another contract for the supply of high-cost medicines with the Government, worth 20 million Reais, and for not having delivered the purchased products.
The case has been pointed out by the Investigative Comission senators as the most serious one involving the Government so far. Since the commission began its work in April 2021, the Bolsonaro administration has tried to shift the focus and has expressed that investigations should focus on corruption cases involving states and municipalities. While opponents defended the narrative that the president was a science denier while dealing with the pandemic, he was omissive on vaccine purchases throughout 2020 and, for that reason, could be held responsible for (maybe hundreds of) thousands of deaths. Now, a new side of the Government modus operandi is being shown by the current investigations: possible direct acts of corruption.