Boris Johnson has praised coronavirus vaccines to Brazil’s President Jair Bolsonaro, who claims to have refused a jab and has spread disinformation about them.
During a meeting in New York on Monday, the Prime Minister told the right-wing populist vying for re-election that AstraZeneca is a “great vaccine” and urged the public to get it.
Mr Bolsonaro, who has made strange claims about vaccines including that they could turn people into crocodiles, responded that he had not received a vaccine “yet”.
The Prime Minister hosted the climate change sceptic at the British Consulate General’s residence while taking part in an effort to encourage world leaders to do more about the environmental crisis.
But Mr Johnson also effectively challenged the Brazilian’s stance on vaccines.
The Prime Minister said he had promised Mr Bolsonaro he would come to Brazil before the “bummer” of the coronavirus pandemic hit, adding: “But we’re working together on the vaccines.
“AstraZeneca, it’s a great vaccine.
“I have AstraZeneca.”
As the press were ushered out of the grand room overlooking the East River, Mr Johnson said: “Thanks everybody, I’ve had it twice.”
Mr Bolsonaro pointed at himself and wagged his finger, “not yet”, he said through an interpreter, before laughing.
They discussed their own fights against coronavirus infections, before Mr Bolsonaro bragged he had developed “excellent” immunity to the disease.
Both men were maskless and were joined by the new Foreign Secretary Liz Truss.
Complicating his attendance at the UN, Mr Bolsonaro may be breaching the assembly’s rule for all attendees to have been vaccinated against coronavirus.
He has been the subject of international criticism for his moves to roll back legal protection for the Amazon rainforest, accelerating deforestation.
During the flight to New York, Mr Johnson told reporters: “I think it’s in the long-term interests of Brazil and the people of Brazil to recognise the spectacular natural inheritance, the endowment that they have, and to conserve that and I’m sure President Bolsonaro agrees with that.”