Boris Johnson uses Bolsonaro meeting to promote AstraZeneca jab

Boris Johnson has used a meeting with Brazil’s coronavirus-denying president to promote Covid vaccinations – only to undermine his message by failing to wear a face mask.

The British prime minister met Jair Bolsonaro – who has been accused of sabotaging Brazilian vaccination efforts and claims not to have been inoculated – at the British Consulate General’s residence in New York on Monday, on the eve of the United Nations general assembly.

Johnson, who was joined by the new foreign secretary, Liz Truss, told Bolsonaro he had planned to travel to Brazil before what he called the “bummer” of the Covid-19 pandemic.

The prime minister went on: “But we’re working together on the vaccines. AstraZeneca it’s a great vaccine. I have AstraZeneca.”

As the media were ushered out of the room before the meeting, Johnson told them, “Thanks, tutti, get AstraZeneca vaccines.” He then turned to Bolsonaro, pointedly saying: “I’ve had it twice.”

In response, Bolsonaro pointed to himself, laughing, and wagged his finger. “Not yet,” he said via an interpreter. Bolsonaro boasted that he had developed “excellent” immunity to Covid after contracting it.

Although New York City health authorities have said delegates must show proof of vaccination if they plan to eat indoors or enter the general assembly hall, the UN secretary general, António Guterres, has accepted that it would be impossible to deny access to unvaccinated heads of state.

Bolsonaro, who is due to speak at the UN gathering on Tuesday, indicated before travelling a partire dal Brazil that he had not been jabbed. “Why would I get vaccinated?” he disse during an online broadcast. “Once everyone has been vaccinated, I’ll decide my future.”

He claimed that his antibody levels were so high that vaccination was unnecessary. Bolsonaro tested positive for Covid-19 in July 2020.

Bolsonaro is the only G20 leader who publicly claims not to have been vaccinated against a disease that has killed nearly 600,000 Brazilians, although the decision to place a 100-year secrecy order on his immunisation records means many citizens doubt that claim.

The Brazilian president has been repeatedly castigated for his approach to Covid, which has included downplaying the seriousness of the disease, dismissing the need for social distancing, and making disparaging remarks about vaccines.

Bolsonaro’s meeting with Johnson is a significant propaganda victory for Brazil’s embattled leader, whose ratings are in freefall, partly because of his handling of the Covid-19 pandemic, and looks unlikely to secure reelection next year.

Bolsonaro’s aides and backers immediately took to social media to trumpet the encounter as supposed proof of their president’s international popularity and publish official photographs of the two smiling leaders shaking hands. His foes, nel frattempo, described Johnson’s decision to encourage vaccination during the meeting as yet another international humiliation for Brazil and its president.

There were reports on Monday lunchtime that a Brazilian diplomat staying at the same New York hotel as Bolsonaro had tested positive for Covid-19.

Despite Bolsonaro undermining vaccination efforts, Brazil has now administered the fourth highest number of vaccines in the world, after China, India and the US. Quasi 70% of eligible Brazilians have received at least one shot and more than 80m Brazilians have been fully vaccinated thanks to the country’s internationally respected public health service.

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