Brazil has been devastated by one of the deadliest COVID-19 outbreaks in the world, reported The Guardian.

  • Brazil has recorded more than 18.6 million COVID-19 cases and more than half a million coronavirus-related fatalities, according to data from The New York Times.
  • The country is currently struggling with its third wave of outbreaks that has the potential to be worse than previous waves, the Deseret News reported.

Public criticism of the Brazilian government’s COVID-19 response has persisted throughout the pandemic. This has led to a Senate committee tasked with investigating the issue and recent allegations of a vaccine corruption scandal, The Associated Press reported.

How did Brazil’s COVID-19 outbreak get so bad?

What is the vaccine corruption scandal?

Brazil’s “vaccine-gate” scandal is still unfolding, reported The Guardian. The scandal involves irregularities in a vaccine contract.

  • The vaccine deal under scrutiny is a contract between Brazil’s Health Ministry and Bharat Biotech, the Indian pharmaceutical company producing Covaxin vaccines, said the AP.
  • The $320 million contract — which involved a Singapore-based intermediary — paid $15 per vaccine dose, the most expensive of all Brazil’s vaccine purchases, the AP reported.
  • Per the AP, invoices for the contract included a $45 million upfront payment to the Singapore intermediary that is under scrutiny as a bribe.

The contract has been “temporarily suspended” with no payments made and no vaccines delivered, AP reported. Health officials have testified that they noticed the irregularities and voiced their concerns to Bolsonaro, who said he would have the Federal Police investigate. The Federal Police deny receiving instructions to investigate.

What does this mean for Bolsonaro?

Bolsonaro has denied all accusations of wrongdoing and all knowledge of possible corruption, said the AP. He has attempted to distance himself from the investigation as much as possible.

  • Previously, Bolsonaro had faced criticism for failing to secure sufficient vaccine supplies last year, reported The Guardian.

Seven of the 11 Senate members on the committee told the AP that, after finishing the investigation, they would vote to recommend indicting Bolsonaro on the charge of prevarication.

  • According to the AP, prevarication is a crime that “entails delaying or refraining from action required as part of a public official’s duty for reasons of personal interest.”

Opposition politicians have already filed more than 100 impeachment requests against Bolsonaro, the AP said. The most recent impeachment request was filed Wednesday by a joint coalition of left-wing and right-wing politicians, The Guardian reported.

What happens now?

The scandal has reignited the anger of the Brazilian public. Nationwide protests in recent weeks have called for Bolsonaro to be removed from office, said The Guardian. Polls have shown “collapsing” support for Bolsonaro with more people than ever considering Bolsonaro’s administration as “bad or terrible.”

  • Protesters plan to continue demonstrations on Saturday, reported The Guardian.