SAWT BEIRUT INTERNATIONAL

| 24 June 2021, Thursday |

Argentina minister steps down after reports of VIP vaccine access

Argentina’s health minister, Gines Gonzalez Garcia, resigned on Friday following reports that people had been able to use connections to get access to coronavirus vaccines to which they were not entitled.

He said in a letter posted on Twitter that individuals were able to sidestep proper procedure for vaccinations due to “unintended confusion” in his office while he was away.

Presidential sources reported earlier on Friday that President Alberto Fernandez had asked for Gines’ resignation after allegations were made in the media of more than 10 people receiving vaccine doses without following the proper procedure, among them a veteran journalist who alleged he had received a shot after speaking directly with the minister.

The growing scandal throws a spotlight on wider fears in the region over corruption and access to vaccines, which are in short supply.

Earlier this month, Peru’s health and foreign ministers stepped down and its former president was placed under criminal investigation following reports of Peruvian officials and others receiving vaccinations outside of clinical trials and before the national immunization program started.

In Argentina, well-know local journalist Horacio Verbitsky said he had received a shot after approaching the minister.

“I called my old friend Ginés González García and he told me to go to the Posadas Hospital,” Verbitsky, who is in his seventies, told radio station El Destape.

Since December, Argentina has been using Russia’s Sputnik V vaccine to inoculate frontline health workers, though deliveries have lagged far behind what it initially hoped for. The country has started inoculating some people at least 70 this week but appointments are scarce and people are supposed to follow a procedure that involves registering first.

As of Wednesday, nearly 250,000 people had received two doses of the vaccine in Argentina. The country of almost 45 million people has confirmed over 2 million COVID-19 infections and 51,000 deaths.