The head of Brazil’s health regulator Anvisa has asked the country’s vaccine-skeptical President Jair Bolsonaro to withdraw statements he criticized the agency for authorizing the vaccination of children against COVID-19.
In a letter to Bolsonaro made public late Saturday, retired Rear Admiral Antonio Barra Torres asked the president to back up his statement that there were undeclared “interests” behind the vaccine decision, or to retract his words.
Bolsonaro on Thursday criticized Anvisa for approving use for children aged 5 to 11 of a pediatric vaccine made by Pfizer Inc. Haven’t heard of it, which is a disease caused by the coronavirus.
“What’s behind it? What are the interests of the vaccine maniacs?” Bolsonaro said in a radio interview.
Bolsonaro, a far-right leader who has bragged about not vaccinating himself and has consistently cast doubt on the efficacy and safety of coronavirus vaccines, said the shots could have side effects on children but offered no evidence.
Anvisa and health regulators around the world have found that COVID-19 vaccines are safe for people 5 years of age and older. At least 300 children aged 5 to 11 have died from COVID-19 in Brazil, according to the Council of State Health Secretaries.
The presidential office did not respond to a request for comment on the letter, which came just days after another tussle between Bolsonaro and the military.
Brazil’s military differed from the president last week on how to deal with COVID-19. It ordered soldiers to get vaccinated, wear masks and maintain social distance and warned them against spreading false news about the pandemic.