With the second most COVID-19 deaths in the world, Brazil has already surpassed 200,000 victims of the disease. The figure could be much lower if preventive measures proven to be effective were more widely followed, such as social distancing, the use of masks, and strict hygiene practices.
It is equally undeniable that the number could have been much higher had it not been for SUS, Brazil’s public health system, which has provided universal health care for over 30 years. Although more than 20% of citizens also use private health services, SUS is open to everyone, and 150 million Brazilians depend on it exclusively.
The current health crisis caused by the pandemic has highlighted the qualities of the public system, which has advanced significantly over the three decades since it was created. It has also shined a spotlight on the challenges faced by the underfunded and not yet fully implemented system. This issue’s cover story takes a closer look at of one of the world’s largest public health care systems (page 42).
On January 17, ANVISA authorized the emergency use of two vaccines: CoronaVac, made by Chinese biotech company Sinovac, and Covishield, developed by multinational pharmaceutical company AstraZeneca in partnership with the University of Oxford. The Chinese company repeatedly postponed the announcement of its clinical trials and initially only partially published the results, leading to confusion about the vaccine’s effectiveness among the Brazilian public. Our coverage of the novel coronavirus in this issue seeks to answer a number of questions circulating at the beginning of the immunization campaign (page 16).
CoronaVac’s phase 3 clinical trials were partly conducted in Brazil by the Butantan Institute—an initiative negotiated between the São Paulo state government and the Chinese government in the early months of the pandemic. Taking on a national role in the search for a vaccine capable of reducing hospitalizations and deaths from Covid-19 has injected a new sense of spirit into the institution, which this month is celebrating its 120th year. A set of articles and interviews produced by special editor Carlos Fioravanti looks back at the institute’s rich history and the many fronts on which it operates today (page 26).
And there is more to celebrate in this issue, as Pesquisa FAPESP itself reaches number 300. This is not a trivial milestone for a national publication dedicated to scientific journalism, with 100 pages produced by its team every month. With reports on the results of science and technology research conducted in Brazil across a vast array of fields, the journal’s mission is to disseminate this knowledge and make readers more familiar with the scientific institutions, structures, and methods behind it.
Originally aimed at the scientific community, the publication has expanded its audience and is proud of its impact on a highly important group: elementary school, high school, and university students. The article on page 60 describes how the journal has been used in classrooms, textbooks, and university entrance exams.
Before the lockdown, when the Pesquisa FAPESP offices were still open, I would sometimes answer the telephone to somebody asking to speak to Marcos. It was Rosa Carcillo Pivetta asking for her son, our Science Editor for the last 20 years. I never had the opportunity to meet her in person. The whole team is standing in solidarity with Marcos and his family at this time of loss caused by the pandemic.