Brazil has more than 575,742 deaths by covid-19 and is the second country with the highest number of deaths. But the evaluation of experts and researchers is that the loss of many of these lives could have been avoided if the Bolsonaro Government and the Ministry of Health, under the command of General Eduardo Pazuello from 16 September 2020 until 19 March 2021, had coordinated preventive actions that involve, above all, social distancing, and planning and coordination actions by the SUS (The Brazilian Universal HeathCare system) . Since the outbreak of the Manaus (Amazonas) crisis, where the collapse of the healthcare system involves a lack of oxygen for patients, Bolsonaro and Pazuello have been under even more pressure to be held accountable for their actions in managing the pandemic.
Members of civil society and the opposition are mobilizing to propose criminal actions and, in Bolsonaro's case, impeachment orders. The General, at the top of his career, with 3 stars, Eduardo Pazuello, served for four months as an interim in the portfolio and then was the head of the longest-serving ministry during the coronavirus pandemic. His period in office was marked by the phrase "One orders, and the other obeys", said by Pazuello alongside President Bolsonaro, last November, amid the crisis that led the ministry to back down from an announcement of purchase of 46 million doses of the Coronavac (SinoVac) vaccine.
The Amazonas prosecutor is investigating whether at least 50 deaths in the December/January/2021 period are related to lack of oxygen. It was only on January 14th, however, that the Ministry of Health prepared the emergency delivery of oxygen using a Brazilian Air Force (FAB) aircraft, and President Jair Bolsonaro declared the role of hisGovernment fulfilled. When he visited Manaus a few days before the hospitals collapse, Pazuello urged doctors to start the “early” treatment of patients suspected of having covid-19. He launched a platform, called TrateCov, which indicated the following drugs without proven efficacy against the disease: chloroquine diphostat, hydroxychloroquine, ivermectin, azithromycin, doxycycline and zinc sulfate. Faced with negative repercussions, the page was taken off the air and the system shut down.
Ineffective medicines, especially chloroquine and hydroxychloroquine, were the Bolsonaro Government's main bet to fight the pandemic. At the beginning of the health crisis, the scientific community considered the possibility that these drugs could have some effect against covid-19, but scientific researches have ruled out this possibility. Even so, neither the government nor the president gave up on their bet and made the army increase the production of chloroquine (Beacuse of Malaria, the B razilian army has its own pharmaceutical company to produce cloroquine). When he took over the Ministry in May —first temporarily, and then definitively—, Pazuello included the medications in the official protocol of the Ministry of Health —signed by subordinates of the minister— for mild cases of covid-19.
The minister also always stood by the president when he promoted the drugs in his weekly lives speeches on social media, meetings with supporters and public appearances. According to a survey by the BBC, the Government spent around 90 million Reais on ineffective medicines. For damages caused to public property and violation of the principles of Administration, the Federal Public Ministry sent to the Supreme Court an action of administrative improbity against former Health Minister Eduardo Pazuello. The action points to the existence of almost R$122 million in damages to the treasury, referring mainly to expenses with treatments against Covid-19 without proven scientific efficacy.
Both Bolsonaro and Pazuello guarantee that they were treated with chloroquine and other medications when they were infected with the coronavirus. In a video with the president, the minister of Health says that he was “good as new” after taking the medicine. All this encouragement had consequences: it is not uncommon to hear reports from people who are taking these drugs as a preventive measure, even without the recommendation of the World Health Organization (WHO). Until the end of last year, Pazuello did not have a consistent plan to start vaccination, while countries like the United Kingdom and the United States started their own campaigns.
When he began to present an outline of the plan, with no start date for the national campaign, he continued to exclude Coronavac (produced in Brazil by Butantã Institute in partnership with Sinovac). Fired from office at the end of March 2021, Pazuello participated in the act in Rio, days after he testified at Covid's Investigation in the Senate. In the parliamentary commission, Pazuello is investigated for the alleged practice of crimes of responsibility on several fronts. One of them is about the crisis in Manaus, to find out if there was a lack of planning to organize the health system and an omission in relation to the delivery of oxygen. Another important point for parliamentarians is the role of the former minister in the acquisition of vaccines, especially his resistance to the purchase of Coronavac and the immunizing agent produced by Pfizer.