With more than 1.24 million infected and almost 44,000 deaths, Peru is one of the Latin American countries most affected by the pandemic.
In this context, complaint that several high-ranking government officials abused a clinical trial to get vaccinated against coronavirus long before the majority of the population it has generated a wave of unrest.
President Francisco Sagasti said on Monday he was “indignant and” furious, “two adjectives that sum up the general feeling of the population, and blamed his predecessor entirely for the situation. Martin Vizcarra, one of those noted.
We present the keys to understanding the scandal that has been baptized as get vaccinated.
1. How did the scandal originate??
The case exploded on Wednesday of last week, when it was revealed that the former president Martín Vizcarra had received two doses of the vaccine against covid-19 from the Chinese company Sinopharm in October, when he was still in charge of the government and the clinical study of it was being carried out in the country.
What at first seemed an issue that would affect only the outgoing government, soon splashed the interim government of Francisco Sagasti.
From the beginning, President Sagasti expressed his “outrage” at the case and ordered that all government officials who participated in this vaccination be “out” of their functions in the State.
The first to go was Minister of Health Mazzetti, who resigned last Friday, although the details of his resignation were not confirmed until the following Monday.
On Sunday it was the turn of the Chancellor Astete, who resigned after acknowledging that he had received the vaccine on January 22, before the general immunization campaign started.
The now former Vice Ministers of Health Luis Suárez and Víctor Bocangel also admitted him and resigned.
2. How many people have you received the vaccine irregularly?
This Monday the list of the 487 inoculated, which includes Vizcarra and, registered as “close environment” are the names of his wife and brother.
Among the hundreds of vaccinated, in addition to Ministers Manzzeti and Astete, there are senior officials of the Ministry of Health and the Foreign Ministry.
And also figures such as Alberto Fujimori’s family doctor, Antonio Aguinaga, the apostolic nuncio Nicola Girasoli, the husband of a congresswoman, the driver of the former minister Mazzetti, the rectors of the San Marcos and Cayetano Heredia universities, relatives of the doctors who participated in the clinical trial, study personnel, among others.
3. What do those involved say?
Vizcarra maintained that he was a “volunteer” in phase three of the clinical trials of the Sinopharm vaccine, which were authorized in August of last year.
The first doses of the vaccine formally arrived in the country at the beginning of September and, with the participation of 11,500 volunteers, that same month the studies began at the Universidad Peruana Cayetano Heredia (UPCH) and the Universidad Nacional Mayor de San Marcos (UNMSM) .
Nevertheless, those responsible for the trial they deny it.
On Tuesday, before the Congressional Oversight Commission, the head of clinical trials, Germán Málaga, confessed that it was Vizcarra himself who requested the vaccine and that he and his wife were inoculated on October 2 at the Palacio de Government.
“I knew it was an open-label vaccine, that it had an active component, and that I had not received a placebo,” he said.
“We went (with a nurse), we vaccinated him and his wife. At that time, it honestly did not seem like an act out of context. He was the president of the republic and I did not think of any legal or political aspect,” added Malaga.
As the Universidad Peruana Cayetano Heredia explained in a statement published over the weekend, the trial protocol establishes the sending of 3,200 additional doses, “to be voluntarily administered to the research team and personnel related to the study.”
As explained by the researcher on Tuesday, 1,500 of them were to be delivered to the Chinese Embassy and the rest were administered to clinical trial personnel and others to “guests”, “consultants” and “related.”
“Perhaps there was excessive breadth in the term related personnel,” he said, explaining that he did not select the officials from the ministries that received the vaccines, but that there was a “Liaison Officer” to that end.
4. What investigations are ongoing?
Congress appointed an investigative commission Tuesday night to determine responsibilities for vaccinations outside the national and international good practices of clinical trials, which also bypassed front-line doctors who were fighting the pandemic.
For its part, Prosecutor’s office initiated a preliminary investigation against Vizcarra for the alleged commission of crimes against the public administration, collusion and incompatible negotiation or taking advantage of the position.
These investigations could still cause more resignations, but their impact could go far beyond the current government, even if President Sagasti said he was confident that what happened would not affect “the process of obtaining vaccines for our country.”
Even more so considering that Peruvians will attend the polls on April 11 to elect a new president.
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Eddie is an Australian news reporter with over 9 years in the industry and has published on Forbes and tech crunch.