Brazil: Global Health Threat

By Ángel Guerra Cabrera on March 24, 2021

The unstoppable rise in covid-19 infections and deaths and the national spread of the twice as contagious P.1 variant of the virus have put Brazil in a tragic situation. The giant went from 1,074 deaths per day on February 13 to 1910 on March 4 to 3258 yesterday, 20 days later, and counting.

With more than 12 million infections and 298,676 deaths as of this writing, it is second only to the United States, which has almost 123 million more inhabitants.  The tragedy was predicted at the end of January by doctor Enrique Mandetta, a former health minister sacked by President Jair Bolsonaro because of his promotion of biosecurity measures, in opposition to the political agenda of the former military officer on the eve of the municipal elections.

Mandetta then declared that Brazil was heading for a “mega epidemic” in the next two months, caused by the spread of the Amazonian variant, believed to have emerged in Manaus, and a lack of government controls. He condemned the sending of hundreds of patients from that state to hospitals in other states. With this policy “we are going to plant this Amazonian strain in all the territories of the federation and within 60 days we could have a mega epidemic” was his prediction. Fatally fulfilled in the face of the criminal negligence of Bolsonaro, who has had a denialist attitude, like his idol Donald Trump, since the beginning of the pandemic.  He went so far as to describe the disease as a little flu, just a “gripecita”, to announce its end in December 2020 and even to file a petition before the Supreme Federal Court to prevent regional and municipal governments from imposing measures to curb it, which was rejected by that judicial body. If it were not for the formidable and growing threat posed by Lula da Silva to his re-election plans and the severe damage that the lack of control of the pandemic is doing to his popularity, Bolsonaro would not have changed his attitude towards the vaccine, from refusing to receive it to promoting it rhetorically and, yesterday, faced with the scandalous fact of being on the verge of 300,000 deaths, to farcically affirming that “life comes first” and setting up a national committee to confront the virus.

To make matters worse, the holocaust suffered by our Brazilian brothers and sisters, particularly the poorest, is compounded by the threat of the new variant spreading to our region and the rest of the world. Consulted by the BBC on March 9, epidemiologist Pedro Hallal said, “21 percent of all deaths in the world yesterday due to covid-19 occurred in Brazil, a country that has only 2.7 percent of the world’s population. So this is huge. Brazil is becoming a global public health threat. Carisa Etienne, director of the Pan American Health Organization (PAHO), said in a statement published in the media today; the coronavirus continues to increase “dangerously” throughout Brazil, she said, adding that this increase affects neighboring countries Venezuela, Bolivia, and Peru, as well as Uruguay, Paraguay, and Chile. This, coupled with reports of P.1 arriving in the United States and European countries, is perfectly explainable considering Brazil’s great air connectivity with the rest of the world. A real-time bomb when there are hopeful signs of a reduction in the number of infections and deaths.

This picture highlights the urgent need for vaccines as a radical solution that must be universalized through solidarity with poor countries, with technology transfer, so that their manufacture can be expanded and diversified. This is perhaps the biggest problem facing the fight against covid as only 10 nations share the vaccines.  While high-income countries vaccinate one person per second, most countries have yet to administer a single dose, says Venezuelan economist Pasqualina Curcio in a revealing article ( ).

At this juncture, the example of Cuba shines through, which, in addition to sending doctors from the Henry Reeve brigades to combat covid-19 in more than 40 countries and territories, is now deploying five vaccine candidates created by its own scientific community. These include Soberana O2 and Abdala in phase 3 clinical trials with nearly 100,000 people and tens of thousands in Cuba, Iran and Venezuela in controlled studies. The island is on track for mass immunization of its people, which between June and August will reach 6 million of its 11.2 million inhabitants.  The ALBA vaccine bank will be nourished by Cuban drugs, which will also be available to many countries unable to access them.

Source: La Pupila Insomne,  translation Resumen Latinoamericano – English