The comments were made during a live broadcast on multiple social media platforms in October, where he claimed vaccinated people in the UK had been contracting Aids faster. Facebook and Instagram subsequently took down the video, and YouTube suspended the Brazilian president’s channel for a week for violating rules regarding misinformation.
The joint United Nations Programme on HIV and Aids says that Covid-19 vaccines approved by health regulators are safe for most people, including those living with HIV.
The order from the supreme court came on Friday in response to a request from a parliamentary commission, which has been conducting an inquiry into Mr Bolsonaro’s widely-criticised handling of the coronavirus pandemic in Brazil.
Mr Bolsonaro has repeatedly, in the past, peddled unscientific claims about Covid-19 and refused to get vaccinated, saying he will be “the last Brazilian” to do so. He has dismissed the seriousness of the virus itself, calling it a “little flu”, and has provided no scientific backing for linking Covid vaccines to Aids.
Supreme court justice Alexandre de Moraes has now ordered a court-monitored probe to be carried out by Brazil’s prosecutor-general (PGR) to find whether the claims made in October relate to the organised misinformation efforts Mr Bolsonaro’s supporters have been under investigation for.
The allegedly deliberate campaign of misinformation has resulted in the arrests of a number of Mr Bolsonaro’s allies and the pressure to investigate him has been mounting.
The judge said Mr Bolsonaro had “used the modus operandi of mass dissemination schemes in social networks”, which requires further investigation.
Brazil’s Senate investigative committee had already filed a report in October that accused Mr Bolsonaro of committing nine crimes while handling the pandemic, including crimes against humanity. However, the 1,300-page-long report, which was handed over to the office of Brazil’s PGR — who was appointed by Mr Bolsonaro — has resulted in little to no action against the president.
The top court said it will monitor the progress of the investigation that the PGR carries out. “In order for judicial supervision to be carried out in an effective and comprehensive manner, it is indispensable that documents be presented showing the status of the investigation in question,” Mr Moraes said.
The pandemic has hit Brazil hard. With more than 22 million infections and 615,400 deaths, Brazil has the second highest number of deaths due to coronavirus, just after the US, and it stands third in the tally of total cases, after India.
Mr Bolsonaro is the only leader in G20 who hasn’t been vaccinated. But despite a delayed start, Brazil has managed to vaccinate 63 per cent of its population, according to government data.