Brazilian health regulator calls for protection as vaccine threats rise

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Adds health ministry data

RIO DE JANEIRO, December 19 (Reuters)Brazil’s federal health regulator Anvisa said on Sunday it received a new torrent of threats and called for greater protection from law enforcement as it faces pressure from President Jair Bolsonaro over his decision to approve COVID-19 vaccines for young children.

For months, Anvisa has been at the center of a political storm in Brazil over her role in approving COVID-19 snapshots. Bolsonaro, a former far-right army captain, said he was not vaccinated and cast doubt on the dangers of the virus and the value of getting vaccinated.

The five directors of Anvisa, all of whom were appointed by Bolsonaro, began receiving threats in October, but they increased this week after the regulator approved injections for children aged 5 to 11.

Following the ruling, Bolsonaro said Thursday he had asked for the names of officials involved and threatened to make their identities public, prompting a public reprimand from Anvisa.

On Sunday, the regulator said the number of threats had increased in the past 24 hours and was giving details to law enforcement. He also said he would seek police protection for his officials, many of whom are scattered across Brazil.

“Anvisa is firm in its mission to protect the health of citizens,” he said.

Bolsonaro’s handling of the pandemic, which claimed nearly 620,000 lives in Brazil, is widely cited as the reason for its plummeting popularity this year. Polls suggest he faces an uphill battle to win next year’s presidential election.

BBrazil on Sunday reported 1,419 new cases of coronavirus and 49 deaths in the past 24 hours, according to data from the Ministry of Health.

(Report by Gabriel Stargardter Editing by Paul Simao and Diane Craft)

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