Award-winning epidemiologist points out denial | Policy

Winner of the most important award in world epidemiology in 2021, the Richard Doll award, researcher Cesar Victora, from the Federal University of Pelotas (UFPel), rejected the Grand Cross of the National Order of Scientific Merit that was awarded to him by the Bolsonaro government. “The tribute offered by a federal government that not only ignores, but actively boycotts the recommendations of epidemiology and collective health, does not seem relevant to me”, writes Victora in a note released last Friday (5) and addressed to the Minister of Science , Technology and Innovations, Marcos Pontes.

“As a scientist”, says Victora, “I cannot condone the way in which denialism in general, the persecutions of fellow scientists and in particular the recent cuts in federal budgets for science have been used as tools to set back the important progress achieved. by the Brazilian scientific community in recent decades”.

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And he continues: “As a scientist and epidemiologist, I have made public, through lectures and scientific articles, my complete opposition to the way the covid-19 pandemic has been tackled by this government.”

In the message to Pontes, the researcher states that he wrote the text “before he became aware that the indications of two fellow scientists with positions critical of the federal government were rendered null and void, according to the Official Gazette of November 5”. And he reinforces: “Such an attitude only reinforces my decision not to accept the distinction offered to me.”

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Victora refers to researchers Marcus Vinícius Lacerda and Adele Schwartz Benzaken. Bolsonaro had the two decorations revoked on Friday (5). Working at the Dr. Heitor Vieira Dourado Tropical Medicine Foundation, in Manaus, Lacerda investigated the supposed efficacy of chloroquine against covid-19 patients. Realizing that the drug increased the risk of heart attack, he canceled the study.

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Benzaken headed the Department of Sexually Transmitted Diseases (STD) and AIDS at the Ministry of Health. It started in the Temer period, but was fired in January 2019 after authorizing the production of a booklet aimed at trans men. The then Minister of Health, Luiz Henrique Mandetta, ordered the booklet removed from circulation and dismissed the director. Both Lacerda and Benzaken were victims of attacks on the networks by the Pocketnarist militancy.

Victora’s research on breastfeeding was adopted by WHO

Victora’s studies in the 1980s revealed the importance of exclusive breastfeeding for child survival. They served to support the breastfeeding policy later adopted by the World Health Organization. Becoming a consultant to the WHO, he helped define the child growth curves that resulted in standards now adopted in 140 countries to measure the development of children aged zero to five years .

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The epidemiologist from Rio Grande do Sul is a visiting professor at the universities of Harvard, Oxford, London and Johns Hopkins. In addition to the Richard Doll Award, he received other international awards including, in 2017, the Canada Gairdner Global Health Award. He is on the editorial board of the main publications in his field, including the British The Lancet which, in its 200 years of circulation, has become one of the most prestigious scientific journals in the world.

Source: BdF Rio Grande do Sul

Editing: Katia Marko

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