Brazilian norms to fight covid-19 ignore access to the vaccine

Publication on norms in the first seven months of the year shows authoritarian measures and a failure to address access to the vaccine. Brazil has a total of 1,838 norms related to the pandemic

Despite the high number of decrees, ordinances and provisional measures issued by the country, immunisation of the Brazilian people against Covid-19 does not figure in the federal government´s priorities, as shown in the third edition of the Boletim Direitos na Pandemia (Bulletin on Rights during the Pandemic)

From January to July 2020, federal executive powers issued 1,838 legal norms concerning the novel coronavirus pandemic. Only five of them concern vaccines and none of them offer guidelines on how federal government intends to organise production, distribution and mass immunisation in Brazil. Furthermore, there is no stimulus for research.

The document shows that while the vaccine is not the focus, it is possible to pinpoint authoritarian measures by the government that have no direct connection to combatting the pandemic. A high number of the actions had been gaining ground even before the start of the public health crisis and have found the ideal opportunity for legalisation without significant resistance. 

One example of this is the provisional measure that introduces the possibility of nominating chancellors of federal institutions, without elections, on a temporary basis, during the period of emergency.

The Bulletin on Rights during the Pandemic is part of the project “Mapping and analysis of legal norms in response to Covid-19 in Brazil,” set up by Cepedisa (Centre for Research and Studies on Sanitation Rights) in the Public Health Faculty at USP (University of São Paulo) in collaboration with Conectas Human Rights. 

The latest edition includes participation from teams at LAUT (Centre for Analysis of Freedom and Authoritarianism), who have analysed the impact of the pandemic on Brazilian democracy, members of ABIA (the Brazilian Interdisciplinary AIDS Association) and the GTPI (Working Group on Intellectual Property) who explain the importance of a compulsory licence for vaccines in handling the pandemic.

Pandemic and democracy

Understanding emergency measures in Brazil demands an analysis of the political situation in the country, with attention to former and current actions which in many cases are unrelated to the public health crisis. 

“In distinguishing between emergency measures and measures of authoritarian accumulation (openly unrelated to the pandemic) it is revealed that authoritarian trends are arising in the coronavirus crisis period, taking advantage of the window of opportunity.” The document says.

In order to monitor the impacts of these measures, LAUT has published a catalogue of actions by the state, during the pandemic, that represent a risk to democracy.

Vaccine Monopoly

Unlike the lack of proposals seen from the Executive, the National Congress has presented a series of legislative initiatives that seek to increase the Brazilian government´s capacity for negotiation and purchase. 

“Vaccines must be considered as global public goods. Global public goods are heritage of humanity.” In this sense, the latest edition of the Bulletin explains Draft Bill (PL) 1462/20, the principal proposal of which is to make immunisation available to the whole of the Brazilian population. The bill intends suspension of monopolies for technology that is pertinent in handling Covid-19 and future pandemics, by means of compulsory licences. A compulsory licence is legally binding and is in line with international agreements on this matter. 

“A strategy that ensures there are no monopolies during the pandemic is the best path to take, as this guarantees the country´s autonomy, increases purchasing power and furthermore, gives the Brazilian government more power to negotiate.” Said Pedro Villardi, Project Coordinator at the Brazilian Interdisciplinary AIDS Association (ABIA) and Coordinator of the Working Group on Intellectual Property (GTPI).

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