Brazil’s Rio de Janeiro red-faced over vaccine campaign with upside-down mask

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An ad campaign encouraging Brazilians to get vaccinated against Covid-19 became the butt of online jokes when some noticed it showed a man wearing his mask upside-down, prompting the Rio de Janeiro government to apologize Sunday.

Dubbed “Rio embraces the vaccine,” the public service billboard from the state government shows a health worker in a white lab coat giving himself an embrace, appearing to smile beneath an FFP2 mask whose metal clip -- meant to fit over the nose -- can be seen beneath his chin.


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“The mask in this ad seems to be... upside down???? This is serious,” tweeted Jandira Feghali, a Congresswoman and doctor who was among the first to comment on the gaffe.

“I think the inverted mask picture is perfect! So representative -- everything really is backwards here in Rio de Janeiro,” quipped another Twitter user.

“Rio de Janeiro never managed to control the pandemic, and that upside-down mask shows your recklessness is a constant,” said another.

The fracas soon prompted state officials to acknowledge the mistake.

“Thank you for pointing this out. We the communication professionals at the Rio de Janeiro state health ministry and public relations office apologize for not noticing this error in mask use in the campaign,” the state health ministry said on Twitter.

It told AFP it had already removed the ads in question and would run “a second phase” of the campaign from Tuesday.

Covid-19 has claimed more than 39,000 lives in the state of Rio, one of the hardest-hit in Brazil.

Interim governor Claudio Castro has come in for criticism for resisting restrictive measures to contain the spread of Covid-19, like his ally far-right President Jair Bolsonaro.

The state government faces accusations of mismanaging the health crisis, and a slate of former officials including ex-governor Wilson Witzel face corruption investigations into allegedly embezzled pandemic response funds.

Brazil has recorded more than 350,000 Covid-19 deaths overall, second only to the US.

It is fighting a coronavirus surge that is overflowing hospitals, even as the government struggles to secure enough vaccines for the country’s 212 million people.

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