Tedros Adhanom Ghebreyesus, director-general of the World Health Organization
(WHO), eschewed recommendations for vaccine passports
and admitted that the Wuhan coronavirus (COVID-19) vaccines do not prevent the disease during the 2021 G20 Summit held October 30-31 in Rome.
His remarks came as a response to questions by Brazilian President Jair Bolsonaro during the summit. The two talked about COVID-19 lockdowns, vaccines and vaccine passports.
The Brazilian leader asked if the global health body has an official stance on vaccine passports. In response, Tedros said the WHO does not recommend their use due to "low vaccine access." The WHO head pointed out that unvaccinated people could become victims of discrimination once vaccine passports are adopted.
Bolsonaro told Tedros that many Brazilians who got their second vaccine dose caught the disease. But Tedros insisted that while the vaccine does not prevent COVID-19, it does prevent serious illness and death.
However, the Brazilian president remarked that "many who got the second [vaccine] dose are dying" in his country. Bolsonaro also lamented his inability to stop mandatory COVID-19 injections for children. He added that his "hands are tied" on the matter and "the lives of children are at stake." Tedros said the WHO does not support COVID-19 vaccinations for children.
The Brazilian leader likewise questioned the economic effects of lockdowns
and other COVID-19 restrictions. "All over the world, there are people who need to work to feed themselves," Bolsonaro noted, adding that "the economy will collapse" if lockdowns continue.
Tedros said there is no need for Brazil to impose a lockdown due to high vaccination rates. Lockdowns would not be needed a long as Brazil continues recommending the use of face masks and hand washing, he added.
Bolsonaro skeptical of public health measures to curb COVID-19
Back in July 2020, the Brazilian leader contracted COVID-19
following months of downplaying its severity. He told reporters that despite suffering from symptoms of the disease, he feels "well" and "normal." (Related: Brazilian President Jair Bolsonaro tests positive for the Wuhan coronavirus – tells supporters he is well and fine
"You can't just talk about the consequences of the virus that you have to worry about. Life goes on. Brazil needs to produce. You need to get the economy in gear," Bolsonaro said.
He subsequently recovered and built up natural immunity to the disease, which is why he continues to refuse
getting the COVID-19 vaccine. Bolsonaro said during an October 2021 radio interview: "I've decided not to get vaccinated. I'm looking at new studies, I already have the highest immunization. Why would I get vaccinated?"
The Brazilian president has also voiced strong opposition to vaccine passports, which are issued to those who complete their COVID-19 vaccination schedule. Some large cities in Brazil require vaccine passports before Brazilians can visit certain public spaces.
"For me, freedom comes before everything else. If a citizen doesn't want to get vaccinated, that's [their] right and that's the end of it," he said during the same radio interview. (Related: Brazil's Bolsonaro unchained: 'If you accept this vaccination passport' it will lead to 'population control'
Aside from public health measures, Bolsonaro has been critical of people's mindset toward the virus. Back in November 2020, he called on Brazil
to "stop being a country of sissies" over the pathogen.
"Not everything is about the pandemic. You have to end this. I'm sorry for the dead, but we will all die one day, everyone here will die. It is no use running away from reality. Brazil must stop being a country of sissies," he said. "The headlines will say I have no empathy for those who died. I feel for everyone who died. But the pandemic is being blown out of proportion."
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