Brazil’s health regulator asks Bolsonaro to back down on vaccine criticism

File photo of Brazilian President Jair Bolsonaro speaking during a public security program ceremony at the Ministry of Justice headquarters in Brasilia, Brazil. November 25, 2021. REUTERS / Ueslei Marcelino / Archive

BRASILIA, Jan 9 (Reuters) – The head of Brazil’s health regulator Anvisa has asked the country’s president, Jair Bolsonaro, to retract statements he made criticizing the agency for authorizing the vaccination of children against COVID -19.

In a letter to Bolsonaro released late Saturday, retired Rear Admiral Antonio Barra Torres asked the president to back up his claim that there were undisclosed “interests” behind the decision to authorize the vaccine or otherwise retract your words.

Bolsonaro on Thursday criticized Anvisa for approving the use for children between the ages of 5 and 11 of the pediatric vaccine made by Pfizer Inc, saying he had not heard of the deaths of children from COVID-19.

“What’s behind this? What are the interests of the vaccine maniacs?” Bolsonaro said in a radio interview.

Bolsonaro, a far-right leader who has boasted of not being vaccinated and has constantly questioned the efficacy and safety of coronavirus vaccines, said the injections could have side effects in children, but offered no evidence.

Anvisa and health regulatory bodies around the world have determined that COVID-19 vaccines are safe from 5 years of age. According to the council of state health secretaries, at least 300 children between the ages of 5 and 11 have died in Brazil from COVID-19.

The president’s office did not respond to a request for comment on the letter, which came out just days after another divergence between Bolsonaro and the military.

The Brazilian Army last week disagreed with the president on how to deal with COVID-19. He ordered soldiers to get vaccinated, wear masks and maintain social distance, and warned them not to spread false news about the pandemic.

(Reporting by Anthony Boadle; Edited in Spanish by Ricardo Figueroa)

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