Investigation into Jair Bolsonaro’s Role in the Brazil Vaccine Scandal Begins

The Brazil Supreme Court Judge opened a criminal investigation on July 2 into the role of Jair Bolsonaro in the Covaxin scandal. There are allegations of corruption in the contract of the health ministry to purchase 20 million doses of the Covid-19 vaccine developed by Bharat Biotech of India. Covaxin has a comparatively high price range even though it has failed in obtaining regulatory clearance. This drew the attention of prosecutors to the deal made in February 2021. For purchasing the vaccines, the health ministry of Brazil has to pay $320 million to Precisa Medicamentos, which is the intermediary of Bharat Biotech in Brazil.

The price was significantly higher than the price the health ministry would have paid for the Pfizer vaccine of American Pharmaceuticals, and Pfizer had obtained the regulatory approval. In 2020, Bolsonaro also refused to take the offer of Pfizer to supply vaccines and constantly raised doubts about its efficacy, as per reports. As the allegations escalated about the irregularities, the government suspended the contract on June 29.

90 Days to Collect evidence

On July 2, Supreme Court Justice Rosa Weber ordered the authorities to gather evidence in the case within 90 days. Authorities will investigate whether President Jair Bolsonaro committed the prevarication crime or not. Weber did not dismiss any possibility of prosecutors checking up on other potential wrongdoings in the contract.

Luis Ricardo Miranda, a Logistics department official, informed the prosecutors that he was under pressure from Bolsonaro’s closest allies aide Alex Lial Marinho to purchase the Bharat Biotech vaccine. Luis Ricardo Miranda testified along with his lawmaker brother Luis Miranda before the Senate committee, who was investigating the handling of the government of the coronavirus pandemic. Luis Miranda even wore a bulletproof vest before going to testify in front of the panel.

Both the brothers said that they warned the Brazil President about irregularities in the Covaxin deal since March 2021. But Bolsonaro assured that he would report their deal concerns to the federal police. However, the Senate committee said that no evidence is there against Bolsonaro and asked the police to look into the allegations. The day from which the scandal broke, both Bharat Biotech and Bolsonaro denied any wrongdoing. The President also said on June 28 that he could not follow all the things happening in the government, and he added that he trusts his ministers. Even the anti-Bolsonaro protests are increasing due to the slow vaccine roll-out.

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