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BRASILIA (Reuters) - Brazil's Jair Bolsonaro said on Monday it would be easier and cheaper to invest in a cure for Covid-19 rather than a vaccine, in a clear sign the president is increasingly positioning himself against inoculation programs.
"I'll give my personal opinion: Isn't it cheaper and easier to invest in a cure rather than a vaccine?" Bolsonaro told supporters outside the presidential palace in Brasilia.
Bolsonaro, who caught and recovered from, Covid-19 in July, has repeatedly downplayed the gravity of the virus and continues to promote the anti-malarial chloroquine as a cure despite mounting evidence it doesn't work.
In Brazil, more than 150,000 people have died due to COVID-19, the world's second highest death toll behind the United States.
Chloroquine was also heralded by U.S. President Donald Trump but has dropped far down the list of potential global treatments for the novel coronavirus as repeated scientific studies failed to find any significant evidence of its effectiveness.
"I'm an example, I took chloroquine, others took invermectin, others took Annita," Bolsonaro said also referring to two broad-spectrum anti-parasite drugs.
"Everything indicates that everyone that took one of these three alternatives early on was cured," he added without providing any scientific evidence to support his statement.
None of the drugs mentioned by Bolsonaro have been proven to work and none are authorized for the treatment of COVID-19 in Europe, for example.
Bolsonaro's comments come as a political battle heats up between the president and Joao Doria, the governor of Sao Paulo - Brazil's most populous and economically advanced state.
Doria, who is widely expected to run against Bolsonaro in the 2022 presidential elections, has positioned his state to get early access to China's Sinovac vaccine which he plans to roll out in a mass inoculation plan by mid-December.
Bolsonaro last week said the federal government would not buy the Chinese vaccine, contradicting his own health minister who had said the drug would be part of the country's immunization plan. [nL1N2HC0MW]
(Reporting by Lissandra Paraguassu; Writing by Gram Slattery; editing by Stephen Eisenhammer and Marguerita Choy)