Brazilian study finds COVID-19 cases and deaths higher in areas with electoral support for President Bolsonaro
Newswise – In a study to be presented at this year’s European Congress of Clinical Microbiology and Infectious Diseases (ECCMID) in Lisbon, Portugal (April 23-26), researchers from Sociedade Mineira de Infectologia and Associação Mineira de Epidemiologia e Controle de Infecções show a correlation between the denial attitude of Brazilian President Jair Bolsonaro towards COVID-19 and a higher incidence and mortality of COVID-19.
The study, of 853 counties in Minas Gerais (the second most populous state in southeast Brazil), finds that in Bolsonaro voting counties, COVID-19 cases and deaths were significantly higher than in the counties where Bolsonaro lost the vote in the 2018 presidential election.
“The role of politics has had a critical impact on COVID-19 responses to the pandemic in Brazil from the outset,” says Dr. Carlos Starling of Sociedade Mineira de Infectologia. “President Jair Bolsonaro has denied the seriousness of COVID-19, promoted treatments without evidence of efficacy, and discouraged social distancing, the use of masks, local lockdowns, and other protective measures, which likely resulted in an increase in infection rates and deaths from COVID-19 among his supporters. »
Brazil’s Covid-19 death toll has passed 659,000, the third highest toll of any country in the world .
In this study, researchers investigated the effectiveness of COVID-19 vaccines in reducing virus transmission and deaths from COVID-19 in 853 counties in Minas Gerais. They also explored the impact of the president’s COVID-19 denial attitude on vaccination and COVID-19 cases and deaths, depending on whether Bolsonaro won or lost the 2018 presidential election in these counties.
Using data on confirmed COVID-19 cases and deaths, vaccination rates and 2018 election results from official government websites, the researchers calculated the incidence rate of COVID-19 (new cases per 100,000 population in the last 14 days) and mortality rate (deaths per 1,000,000 population in the last 14 days) for each county between 21st January 2021 (when vaccination started in Brazil), and 10and November 2021.
The results showed that at 10and As of November 2021, more than half of the population (over 55%) in most counties (682/853) had been fully vaccinated with Astrazeneca (41%), Pfizer (32%) or Coronavac (28%; see Figure 1 in Notes to Editors).
Overall, the analyzes revealed that the vaccination rate between January and November was similar between counties (see Table 1 in Notes to Editors). As the percentage of the population fully vaccinated against SARS-CoV-2 has increased over time, the incidence and mortality rates of COVID-19 have steadily decreased (see Figure 2).
However, in counties where Bolsonaro won the electoral vote, the incidence rate of COVID-19 was 30% higher (7.6%; 1,284,454 cases/16,961,800 inhabitants of 445 counties) than in counties where he lost the vote (5.6%; 249,704 cases/4,450,502 residents of 408 counties; see Table 2).
Additionally, the COVID-19 death rate was 60% higher in counties with the highest electoral support for Bolsonaro compared to those with the least support (212 COVID-19 deaths per 100,000 population vs. 132 COVID-19 deaths per 100,000 population; see Table 3).
Researchers also performed a more detailed assessment comparing the impact of vaccination on COVID-19 incidence and death rates in 33 counties with populations over 100,000, and found a negative correlation between vaccination and COVID-19 cases and deaths in all 33 counties (i.e., counties with the lowest vaccination rates had the highest incidence and mortality rates), except for five cities where there was a negative, but not significant, correlation between the full vaccination rate and the death rate.
“It is likely that thousands of lives were lost unnecessarily because President Bolsonaro called COVID-19 a ‘little flu’ and mobilized against lockdowns, school closures and other protective measures. “, said Dr. Braulio Couto Associação Mineira de Epidemiologia e Controle de Infecções. “However, our results indicate that the Brazilian people have great confidence in vaccines, and Bolsonaro’s lies and doubts about COVID-19 vaccines did not prevent mass vaccination, the increase in the vaccination rate in over time steadily reducing COVID-19 cases and deaths.”
The authors note that this is an ecological observational study and cannot prove that Bolsonaro’s Holocaust denial stance caused additional cases or deaths from COVID-19, but only suggest the possibility of a such effect. The authors point out several limitations, including the ecological fallacy – that relationships that exist for groups are assumed to be equally true for individuals – and they cannot rule out the possibility that other unmeasured factors such as levels of education and household income may have affected the results.
Notes to Editors:
The study received no funding.
The authors declare no conflict of interest.
This press release is based on the abstract for Poster 690 of the European Congress of Clinical Microbiology and Infectious Diseases (ECCMID). All accepted abstracts have been carefully reviewed by the conference selection committee. There is no complete article at this stage, but the authors are happy to answer your questions. The research has not yet been submitted to a medical journal for publication. As this is an oral presentation, there is no poster.
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