Jan 2021 Brazil Information Sheet

Brazil is the 6th largest country by area and has the largest population in Latin America. The country recorded the first confirmed COVID-19 case on February 26 and the first death on March 12, both in São Paulo state. In 24 days, the disease had spread to all federal units. As of September 11, 2020, Brazil reported more than 4.2 million cases (3rd in the world, after the US and India) and almost 130,000 deaths (2nd in the world, after the US).

Brazil was, in theory, uniquely equipped to implement a locally-adapted response to COVID-19. It has a free and universal health system, a strong community-based primary care program, and a long tradition in pioneering public health responses (e.g., the national immunization program, and the HIV/AIDS control program). It could learn from the mistakes and successes that other countries hit by COVID-19 made. It has a history of responding to new health threats by implementing governmental action and by generating high-quality scientific evidence. However, Brazil’s response has been chaotic. Brazil’s President Jair Bolsonaro downplayed the importance of the coronavirus. He also denies scientific evidence. Since May 15, 2020, Brazil does not a Minister of Health. The interim Minister is an active-duty Army general without any health training, who signed a new protocol of COVID-19 treatment on May 20 that includes the use of hydroxychloroquine (a treatment without scientific basis). COVID-19 statistics of morbidity and mortality expose (and exacerbated) structural inequalities of the country.

This course will offer a critical perspective of the COVID-19 pandemic in Brazil. We will discuss the context (present and historical), challenges and opportunities, responses at the federal and local levels, consequences, and the way forward. Speakers will include professors from Harvard and Brazilian Universities, policy makers, government officials, and representatives from social movements. Harvard Students will work collaboratively with Brazilian graduate students in projects around different aspects of the pandemic.

At the end of the course, students will present and discuss their project. Throughout this course, students will have an opportunity to interact with faculty from Harvard as well as faculty, public health workers, researchers, and students from Brazil.

Course limited to 15 students.