World leaders gathered in New York on Tuesday for the United Nation’s General Assembly with a focus on fighting the pandemic.
So it was perhaps curious that the first speaker was Brazilian President Jair Bolsonaro, a vaccine skeptic who appeared to openly break the U.N.’s honor code simply by walking in the door.
Under the code, U.N. officials asked that all who enter the hall be vaccinated – though they did not require proof.
The far-right leader, who had COVID last year, has bragged about not getting the shot, saying his immune system is strong enough to fend off contracting it again.
In his U.N. address, Bolsonaro appeared conciliatory by saying he does support the vaccine, but immediately pivoted to stress he remains against requiring it for Brazil’s citizens – despite slipping poll numbers at home for his handling of the pandemic.
He also doubled down on his support of the use of the controversial drug hydroxychloroquine, normally used to treat malaria, that emerged early on as a potential treatment for COVID but has since been dismissed by many health officials as ineffective and potentially harmful.
“We don't understand why so many countries - along with most of the media - positioned themselves against the early treatment. History and science will hold everyone accountable."
While Bolsonaro walked the halls of the U.N. unvaccinated – even hugging Secretary-General Antonio Guterres – the rest of New York may not have not been as welcoming.
With no one allowed into the city's restaurants without proof of vaccination, Bolsonaro and his aides appeared to settle for slices of pizza on the sidewalk, as a photo posted to social media by two of his Cabinet ministers showed.
Next to speak at the U.N. after the Brazilian leader was his polar opposite when it comes to fighting COVID – U.S. President Joe Biden – but not before the podium was completely sanitized with a hefty wipe-down.