The new campaign began on Monday in the country of 212 million people, weeks after the United States and European countries launched their vaccination programs.
The late launch, hampered by limited supplies, has sparked growing public outrage a widespread complaint about people being vaccinated suddenly.
Thousands of people in several cities have staged protests this weekend demanding the overthrow of Bolsonaro.
The inoculation effort so far involved six million doses of China’s Sinovac CoronaVac vaccine, and two million UK AstraZeneca-Oxford jabs, which arrived Friday after several delays from the India where it was made.
The Butantan Institute in Sao Paulo, linked to Sinovac, has also received authorization for another 4.8 million doses of CoronaVac.
But once the vaccination program starts, professionals sound the alarm about procrastination.
This comes at a time when the pandemic has surged, claiming more than 1,000 lives a day and more than 215,000 to date, second only to the US total of more than 415,000.
Any disruption in the supply chain could bring the vaccination program to a sudden halt, according to Isabella Ballalai, vice president of the Brazilian Immunological Society (SBIM).
He denounced what he described as the “incompetence of the Health Ministry” and said greater transparency was needed to restore public confidence.
Bolsonaro, who has long played down the seriousness of Covid-19, on Friday doubted the effectiveness of the vaccine.
The government acknowledged this month that it was short on 30 million needles for the first phase of its national plan, which aims – in no time at all – to immunize 50 million people.
On top of the distribution challenges in this vast country, complaints have emerged in several cities about people being vaccinated even when not in the priority group.
In Manaus, the capital of Amazonas state, where hospitals are overflowing with Covid patients and oxygen supplies are scarce, violent protests led to a 24-hour suspension of vaccinations.
The Butantan Institute says it hopes to eventually produce 40 million doses of CoronaVac; The Fiocruz Foundation, which has links to the Ministry of Health, was supposed to produce the AstraZeneca vaccine but has warned of supply chain problems.
Many experts attribute the delay to Bolsonaro’s frequent criticism of the CoronaVac vaccine, which they say has offended China.
The only explanation, says Margareth Dalcolmo, a pulmonologist and researcher at Fiocruz, is “absolute negligence, of Brazil’s diplomatic incompetence.”
Bolsonaro on Thursday rejected such criticism, saying the issue was “bureaucratic and not political.”
Thomaz Favaro, a political analyst with Control Risks, accused the government, which he said was “delaying signing an agreement with the laboratory.”
Brazil has yet to reach an agreement to buy a Pfizer-BioNTech or Janssen vaccine.
But Favaro said Bolsonaro would eventually have to pay the political price, adding, “the delay in the vaccination campaign has a serious impact on economic recovery, and it will increase people’s frustration.”
A new poll on Friday showed Bolsonaro’s popularity at its lowest – 31 percent – since taking office in January 2019.