Brazil’s right-wing president-elect Jair Bolsonaro said on Twitter Monday he will not be vaccinated against the “frenzied campaign” against vaccinations that resulted in several deaths after he promised to scrap a vaccine program.
Bolsonaro’s tweet shortly after 1 p.m. comes days after four people died in a town near Sao Paulo from a measles epidemic that began when several students resisted a vaccination campaign by refusing shots.
Health officials announced last week that 16 people were infected with the virus and 17 others were hospitalized in the area. On Sunday, they raised the death toll to four as the current outbreak entered its second week.
During the 2015-16 school year, the outbreak in the country’s northwest was considered an unprecedented occurrence that killed at least 167 people. Children were also killed in 2010 when a child receiving a vaccine refused, and in 2011 a child with a disability died after a doctor wrongly ordered a vaccination, and died, from tetanus.
In a tweet after a reporter asked Bolsonaro if he will be vaccinated, he responded: “Please thank your mercy, I am not going to be vaccinated. I accept your request to not see any of the film, due to the frenzied campaign that started. I think we should now leave them alone.”
Bolsonaro’s stance put him at odds with Brazil’s national immunization program, which covers at least 90 percent of the population, according to the Brazilian Public Health Surveillance Institute.
Bolsonaro will be inaugurated July 1. His election will be welcome relief for Brazilian parents, who until just a few weeks ago were routinely urged to pay for a vaccine after a string of scandals about doctors who falsified vaccines and sold them without proper training.
But before the election a majority of the country’s physicians and health experts voted to oppose Bolsonaro’s policies on the grounds that they could result in dire consequences for the country’s health system.
“I am sad and concerned about the current health and safety issues facing this country, above all the vaccine issue,” said André Rodrigues, a professor at the University of Brasilia’s faculty of medicine. “Vaccines are a part of the democratic process, and I understand this may not be popular with some people, but what is necessary in a democratic society must be carried out.”
Dr. Fernando La Rosa, a professor at Insper’s College of Medicine, was more direct in his criticism of Bolsonaro.
“This man does not want to vaccinate. He doesn’t want to vaccinate,” he said. “So I am concerned about the health of my children, and my grandchildren.”
The World Health Organization has been tracking the recent spike in measles cases in Brazil.
The Associated Press contributed to this report.