Angry Brazilians dress as reptiles for their Covid jabs to mock Bolsonaro

When Klinger Duarte Rodrigues set off for his coronavirus shot last weekend he did so dressed as a South American snake.

“A sucuri," hy het gesê, using the indigenous name for the Amazonian water boa whose skin he borrowed for his first dose of AstraZeneca.

The outfit – footage of which went immediately viral on social media – was not merely a fashion statement: it was a protest against the Brazilian government’s woeful handling of a Covid outbreak that has killed more than 545,000 burgers, among them Rodrigues’s brother-in-law.

“If the government had been quicker to acquire vaccines, many people would still be with us,” said the environmentalist and internet influencer who attached a placard to his snake costume calling for the impeachment of Brazil’s president Jair Bolsonaro.

Rodrigues’s protest was not the only act of reptilian resistance documented as Brazilians have headed out for their jabs – and the explanation for their choice of clothing is the president himself.

Last year Bolsonaro, who has disrupted vaccination efforts by buying insufficient vaccines and refusing to get one himself, claimed sarcastically that Pfizer’s shot might turn recipients into alligators. In response to that notorious remark, pro-science opponents, furious at Bolsonaro’s denialist conduct, have been getting vaccinated clad as different kinds of reptiles.

Most come as the jacaré: the scaly alligator native to the Amazon, a region which has come under growing attack from illegal loggers and miners since Bolsonaro took office in 2019.

“My costume was a way of expressing my horror,” said Leila Fernandes, a 60-year-old educator from the city of Fortaleza whose crocodilian onesie was designed to reflect her fury at Bolsonaro’s “abhorrent” handling of the Covid epidemic, sabotage of containment measures and promotion of ineffective remedies.

“I lost my mother-in-law, the husband of my niece and several close friends. You’ll struggle to find a family that hasn’t lost a loved one,” Fernandes said. “We cannot forget what this president fellow has done … So many Brazilians have been buried who could have escaped death but died because of the president’s impositions.”

Rodrigues, who lives in the Amazon city of Manaus, said he had decided to go one step further and transform himself into an anaconda. “It’s a traditionally Amazonian animal [en] it represents medicine and science,” said the 29-year-old whose TikTok video of his vaccination has been viewed more than 6.4m times.

Rodrigues lost his 37-year-old brother-in-law, a composer called Rafael Marupiara, to Covid earlier this year when Manaus suffered a devastating health collapse that saw patients suffocate to death after hospitals ran out of oxygen.

“The atmosphere here was so heavy, there was such suffering and sadness … The streets were deserted. Everyone was locked inside for fear of what might happen,” he remembered of that deadly crisis.

Six months later Rodrigues, who refused to reveal the costume he would wear for his second dose in October, hoped his attire would bring a touch of much needed joy and convince hesitant Brazilians to get immunized. “The best way out of this pandemic is the vaccine.”

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