RIO DE JANEIRO — A congressional panel in Brazil voted to recommend nine criminal charges against President Jair Bolsonaro, including “crimes against humanity,” accusing Mr. Bolsonaro of intentionally allowing the coronavirus to spread unchecked through Brazil in a bid to reach herd immunity.
With the vote on Tuesday night, the Senate panel also recommended charges against 77 other people, including government officials, private citizens and three of Mr. Bolsonaro’s sons, for a variety of crimes related to their response to the pandemic. The panel also recommended charges against two companies.
In a six-month investigation, the panel found that Mr. Bolsonaro and members of his administration discouraged people from wearing masks, ignored offers of vaccines and promoted unproven drugs long after they were found to be ineffective.
The report found that the actions, taken together, led to hundreds of thousands of deaths. Brazil has had more than 600,000 deaths from Covid, second only to the United States, where more than 739,000 have died.
Seven senators voted for the nearly 1,300-page report and four voted against it. The report had largely been controlled by the panel’s seven-member majority, all of whom oppose Mr. Bolsonaro, a strident, right-wing populist.
Mr. Bolsonaro’s office did not respond to a request for comment. Immediately after the vote, former President Donald J. Trump, who has a warm relationship with Mr. Bolsonaro, issued a statement supporting him: “Brazil is lucky to have a man such as Jair Bolsonaro working for them!”
The report now heads to Brazil’s attorney general, who will have 30 days to decide whether to pursue criminal charges against Mr. Bolsonaro and the others named in the report. Brazil’s lower house in Congress would also have to approve charges against Mr. Bolsonaro.
Political analysts, as well as some senators on the panel, have said that they doubt that Mr. Bolsonaro will ultimately face charges because the attorney general and a majority of the lower house support the president.
The panel also voted to ask Brazil’s Supreme Court to request that Mr. Bolsonaro be banned from social media for the “protection of the population.” The senators included that recommendation after the president suggested during a weekly social media livestream on Thursday that the coronavirus vaccine could cause AIDS. Facebook and YouTube removed the video, and YouTube froze Mr. Bolsonaro’s channel for a week.
The vote concludes an investigation that had led the nightly news in Brazil for much of the summer. The panel held more than 50 hearings, which sometimes included shocking testimony. At one point, a lawmaker wore a bulletproof vest to testify that some vaccine purchases included kickbacks.
“How many presidents of the Republic, without having been in wars, were accused of crimes against humanity?” asked Senator Randolfe Rodrigues, the panel’s vice president. “There are reasons, motives and statements like the ones we witnessed — which left us in absolute shock, all of us Brazilians — that led to this indictment request.”
Senator Eduardo Girão, one of the four senators who voted against the report, said that he believed Mr. Bolsonaro had acted wrongly, but that the report “became an instrument of political persecution.”
After the vote, the panel held a moment of silence for the more than 600,000 Brazilians who have died in the pandemic. The room then broke into applause.
The health minister of Australia announced on Wednesday that fully vaccinated residents would finally be allowed to travel abroad starting on Nov. 1, a year and a half after borders were closed to most ingoing and outgoing travel.
“Fully vaccinated Australians will not require an exemption to depart Australia,” Greg Hunt, the country’s health minister, told reporters in Canberra. He added that they would also be able to return without restrictions.
The eased restrictions will be the first stage in Australia’s plan to reopen its international borders since slamming them shut on March 20, 2020, separating families and leaving thousands of Australians stranded overseas.
The second stage, Mr. Hunt said, will allow students and critical workers to enter the country and, eventually, see borders fully reopened to tourists and other visitors.
“It’s exciting,” said Kelsey May, 25, an Australian who returned home from Britain in March of 2020, and has been separated from her partner since. But, Ms. May added, “We’ve been told so many things over the past 18 months that haven’t come to fruition, we just want to see what happens.”
On Monday, the health authorities also approved Pfizer-BioNTech vaccine booster shots for those 18 and older. They said the decision would make the country among the most highly vaccinated places in the world.
Nationwide, 62 percent of eligible Australians have had two doses of the vaccine, and 74 percent have had one dose.
But Canberra, the capital, announced it had become the first jurisdiction in the country to fully vaccinate more than 90 percent of eligible residents age 12 and older.
Jab well done Canberra 💉💉
It’s not a race, but we’re happy to take the crown 👑 and be the first jurisdiction in Australia to have more than 90% (90.5%) of its residents aged 12+ who have received 2 doses of a COVID-19 vaccine.
Keep it up Canberra 🥇 💪 pic.twitter.com/tsH3ZLi3aR
— ACT Health (@ACTHealth) October 27, 2021
An expert committee advising the Food and Drug Administration on Tuesday recommended that regulators authorize Pfizer-BioNTech’s coronavirus vaccine for 5- to 11-year-olds, bringing about 28 million children a major step closer to becoming eligible for shots.
If the F.D.A. follows the panel’s advice in the coming days, as is expected, the Biden administration will have expanded vaccine access to all but the youngest Americans, while providing booster shots for many as well.
Biden administration officials see the pediatric dose as crucial to keeping schools open and restoring a sense of normalcy to family and work life as the pandemic hurtles toward the end of its second year. The administration wants to be seen as doing everything possible to combat the virus and build upon positive trends, as the Delta variant ebbs and the daily drumbeat of infections and deaths fades.
Younger children would start getting their shots at a time when coronavirus cases are dropping sharply. But public demand for a pediatric vaccine has been high, and some panel members said that even though young children are less likely to get severely ill from Covid-19, parents and doctors alike are anxious to protect them.
Dr. Jay Portnoy, a medical director at Children’s Mercy Hospital in Kansas City, Mo., said he had seen critically ill children in the intensive care unit and “terrified” parents. “I’m looking forward to being able to actually do something to prevent that,” he said.
The vote was 17-0 in favor, with one abstention. Federal regulators and scientists made a strong push, arguing that 8,300 children between 5 and 11 had been hospitalized with Covid-19 and nearly 100 had died over the course of the pandemic.
Covid-19 is “the eighth-highest killer of kids in this age group over the past year,” said Dr. Amanda Cohn, a top C.D.C. vaccine official. “Use of this vaccine will prevent deaths, will prevent I.C.U. admissions and will prevent significant long-term adverse outcomes in children.”
Data from Pfizer showed that the vaccine had a 90.7 percent efficacy rate in preventing symptomatic Covid-19 in a clinical trial of 5- to 11-year-olds. Still, many advisory committee members expressed concern about limited safety data, turning repeatedly to the risk of myocarditis, a rare condition involving inflammation of the heart muscle, in young vaccine recipients. Myocarditis and pericarditis, inflammation of the lining around the heart, have been tied to the Pfizer-BioNTech and Moderna vaccines, particularly in younger men.
The Pfizer dose for younger children would be one-third of the strength given to people 12 and older, with two shots given three weeks apart. Experts have said that could diminish the risk of the heart-related side effects.
If F.D.A. regulators follow the committee’s advice, as they typically do, an authorization could come within days. The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention’s own panel of outside experts is scheduled to meet Tuesday and Wednesday, and is also expected to endorse a pediatric dose. The C.D.C., which sets vaccine policy, would likely then quickly recommend the rollout of shots.
During a long debate before the vote, some committee members questioned whether every child in the age group really needed the vaccine or whether it should be limited to those at high risk of severe Covid-19 — an easily identifiable group, with underlying conditions such as obesity or other risk factors.
Dr. James E.K. Hildreth, the president and chief executive of Meharry Medical College, said that since many children between 5 and 11 may already have some immunity after contracting the virus, the need to vaccinate broadly in the age group might be less urgent.
“It just seems to me that in some ways we’re vaccinating children to protect the adults, and it should be the other way around,” he said. “I do believe that children at highest risk do need to be vaccinated. But vaccinating all of the children to achieve that just seems a bit much for me.”
Source: NYT > Top Stories