Despite a slow start plagued by much controversy that still haunts President Jair Bolsonaro, Brazil’s coronavirus vaccination campaign is now one of the fastest-paced and farthest-reaching in the world. While boasting a globally renowned vaccination system, the country of 213 million people only started coronavirus inoculations in January, several weeks after the United States, many European countries and others in South America. The roll-out was delayed by political bickering under a president who belittled the pandemic and spread vaccine falsehoods, then hamstrung by logistical difficulties in the vast country. But the country with the world’s second-highest Covid-19 death toll – more than 588,000 fatalities reported to date – has seen its coronavirus vaccination rate pick up and its death rate tumble as imported jabs started arriving and local production began. Brazil study finds Sinovac far less effective at reducing deaths in elderly In the past three months, the number of Brazilians with at least one jab has almost tripled to cover 67.6 per cent of the population – slightly higher than in the United States with 63.4 per cent and Argentina with 63.8, according to an AFP count. The figure for those fully vaccinated is much lower, at 36 per cent – but enough to put Brazil in third place among the world’s ten most populous countries. With vaccine supply uncertain at first, Brazil decided to focus on giving a first dose to as large a number of people as possible, and opted for a long interval between the first and second jab. Logistical delivery problems have largely been ironed out through trial and error, and supply concerns are a thing of the past with Brazil now producing its own AstraZeneca and Sinovac jabs under license. “The acceleration was seen from May-June, with the arrival and much more consistent supply of vaccines,” Jose David Urbaez of the Society of Infectious Disease said. As a result, from more than 2,000 daily deaths in June, there are now fewer than 600 per day. ‘Vaccine sommeliers’ imperil Brazil’s coronavirus fight Today, Brazil is the country with the fourth-most doses administered – a total of 214 million – after China, India and the United States. It is administering the third-most doses daily – some 1.5 million on average per day in the last week, and has started giving shots to teenagers and booster shots to vulnerable people. One problem the country does not have is vaccine scepticism: more than 90 per cent of Brazilians have told pollsters they want the jab. Brazil’s recent success came despite a chaotic pandemic outset under the leadership of Bolsonaro, who at its height minimised the virus as a “little flu”, fought lockdowns, questioned face masks and rejected various offers of vaccines while pushing unproven drugs such as hydroxychloroquine. Last December, the president, who had himself contracted Covid-19, suggested the Pfizer vaccine may turn people into crocodiles, cause women to grow beards or men to become effeminate. He long sought to discredit China’s CoronaVac inoculation, even as the governor of Sao Paulo fought to have it approved. Bolsonaro’s handling of the outbreak has contributed to his popularity tumbling to a lowly 22 per cent, according to a poll Thursday, with frequent protest marches to call for his resignation. There are dozens of outstanding impeachment bids against him, and a Senate committee is investigating his government’s pandemic response. Bolsonaro is also the subject of several criminal investigations – one of them concerning allegations that he sat on evidence of corruption in a Covid vaccine deal.