It’s interesting to see how the President of the Republic, while enjoying his macho reputation, is a bit mundane in practice. As I write these lines, Bolsonaro has already undertaken another of his classic retreats to allegedly guide against the use of masks by people who have been vaccinated against Covid-19 or who already suffered from the disease.
In any case, this tragicomic episode shows perfectly how the disastrous course of the pandemic in Brazil is nourished by two other central problems of the pocket book: the mania of making decisions by ear and putting ideology above everything. Facts are just details.
Starting with these poor guys, the facts: It’s impressive how the essence of vaccination strategies, collective protection, doesn’t penetrate into the granite boulders of pocket narcosis. Vaccines, even the best, are not and never will be perfect.
The variability of viruses, the properties of each vaccine, and the differences in how the body’s defense system reacts from person to person inevitably means that some people are better protected than others when they are vaccinated. And other people may not even be able to get vaccinated.
This means that it will always be necessary to reach a population threshold, a critical mass of vaccinated persons, so that this individual variability can be swallowed up by the collective protection. When this threshold is reached, the most vulnerable are under the shield of the fully vaccinated and the disease stops circulating. (The logic is a bit military, and you’d think ex-soldiers might understand it, but it appears that strategy school with Agulhas Negras wasn’t quite like that in the 1970s.)
Has Brazil already reached this threshold, with only 14.6% of the adult population being fully vaccinated? The answer is a clear no. What we have seen in countries like Israel and the USA, where it should be emphasized that the use of more effective vaccines than ours was prevalent, is that the collective protective effect is only effective in at least half of the vaccinated population. Here it might be more realistic to think of a number close to 70%.
As for our millions of “recovered” people – a euphemism that should in many cases be replaced by “consequences” – it has been clear for several months that Covid-19 is not like measles or smallpox. In many cases, infection with the Sars-CoV-2 virus does not confer lifelong immunity.
Encouraging the “healed” to circulate without a mask exposes this group to a new risk of death and increases the chance that everyone who comes into contact with them will also become infected. In addition, it encourages virus variants to multiply, which can lead to the protection offered by vaccines today being bypassed.
However, the most revealing of our guide’s awkward statements was to call the masks “that symbol”. For Bolsonaro, protection is nothing more than a symbolic setback for his macho voluntariness and not something that can save lives (as has already been shown).
The self-sabotage of the argument is impressive. The economic recovery he dreamed of could take place safely if masks with a high degree of protection against the virus were available to the entire population and used correctly (which could have been implemented long ago). Still, the president prefers to undermine the low level of protection. Abyssal stupidity or psychopathy? Whatever the real option, may God have mercy on this nation.
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