Two Peruvian ministers have submitted requests to resign after being implicated in scandals related to the country’s Covid-19 vaccination campaign.
Last Friday (12), Pilar Mazzetti, who headed the Health portfolio, resigned after a Lima newspaper published a report that former President Martín Vizcarra was vaccinated in October, a few weeks before suffering a stroke cerebral.
This Monday (15), it was the turn of Elizabeth Astete, Minister of Foreign Affairs of Peru, to ask to leave. She admitted to having skipped the line of the vaccination campaign when she received a dose of vaccine from a “remaining batch” on January 22.
“I gave the President of the Republic my letter of resignation from the post of Minister of Foreign Affairs,” Astete said in a statement posted on his Twitter profile, in which he said he was giving up receiving the second dose of the immunizer.
Peru’s interim president Francisco Sagasti said hours later that he had accepted the diplomatic chief’s resignation and had spared no criticism of former subordinates.
“I am outraged and furious at this situation which endangers the efforts of many Peruvians,” he said in an interview with América Televisión.
The first phase of vaccination in Peru has health professionals as a priority group, but Sagasti himself, 76, was publicly vaccinated last Tuesday (9), the first day of vaccination in Peru. On this occasion, the acting chief encouraged Peruvians to join the vaccination campaign.
But the political storm over vaccines may be far from over. Peru’s Attorney General Zoraida Ávalos has opened an investigation against former President Vizcarra and other possible people in connection with the “early vaccination”.
Although presidents, leaders and high-ranking figures of many countries have publicly vaccinated themselves to serve as an example to their populations, in the Peruvian case the criticism is directed against the fact that government officials have received the doses without any transparency and on dates well before the start of the official vaccination campaign.
“It is not possible that in the midst of the crisis a public office will be used for personal gain. Investigations and sanctions against those responsible are urgently needed, ”said Peruvian Congress President Mirtha Vásquez.
In his defense, Vizcarra admitted to having received doses of the vaccine produced by the Chinese company Sinopharm as part of a clinical trial to which he had volunteered.
The ex-president’s version, however, was denied by the Peruvian University Cayetano Heredia, the institution responsible for testing the immunizer in the country. “Mr. Martín Vizcarra and Ms. Maribel Díaz Cabello [esposa de Vizcarra] they are not part of the group of 12,000 volunteers being researched, ”the university said.
According to the Peruvian press, it is speculated that the number of government employees vaccinated in secret could be much higher, because, in addition to the experimental doses used in the studies, Sinopharm provided 2,000 other “courtesy vaccines” to the officials. of the trial and members of the government.
As scandals surfaced, high-ranking Peruvian government figures quickly declared publicly that they were not vaccinated.
“With transparency, I declare under oath that I have not been vaccinated against Covid-19 and that I have not participated in any of the clinical trials of this vaccine”, indicates a statement posted on Twitter by the government number 2, chief by Violeta Bermúdez. At least 12 other Sagasti ministers have made similar statements.
There is still no date for the start of vaccination of the general population, as the country currently only has one million doses out of the 48 million it has contracted from Sinopharm.
With 1.2 million cases and 43.7 thousand deaths from the coronavirus, Peru is second on the list of countries with the highest death rate from the pandemic. For every 100 Covid-19 diagnoses among Peruvians, 3.5 deaths occur, according to data from Johns Hopkins University. At the top of the list is Mexico (8.7%). Brazil appears in 11th position, with a rate of 2.4%.