President Francisco Sagasti said he felt “indignant and” furious, “and the two adjectives also describe well the feelings of the majority of Peruvians regarding the complaint that several high-ranking government officials abused a clinical trial to get vaccinated against the coronavirus much earlier than most of the population.
“Once again, we Peruvians learned that there were those who took advantage of a position in the state apparatus to obtain an undue benefit,” summarized the sentiment of the newspaper El Comercio in its editorial this Monday.
Sagasti, however, held his predecessor, Martín Vizcarra, entirely responsible for the situation, who last week admitted to having received two doses of the vaccine against covid-19 from the empresa china Sinopharm when it was being tested in the country, at the end of last year.
Vizcarra – who was removed by Congress in November 2020 for alleged “moral incapacity” – justified himself by assuring that both he and his wife had participated as volunteers in the trials.
But this Tuesday, Germán Málaga, one of the doctors who led the study at the Universidad Peruana Cayetano Heredia, assured in Congress that Vizcarra asked him for a vaccine for himself and another for his wife.
The scandal already it cost the ministers their job of Health, Pilar Mazzetti, and Foreign Relations, Elizabeth Astete. The country’s prosecutor’s office also announced a preliminary investigation against the former president.
On Monday night, President Sagasti confirmed that Mazzetti and Astete are on the list of vaccinated people provided by the university.
Mazzetti resigned after it was announced that Congress was preparing to pass a vote of no confidence against him, while Astete did so after admitting that he had received a dose of the vaccine, which the now former Deputy Minister of Health also did. , Luis Suárez.
Astete admitted that it was a “serious mistake” have been vaccinated on January 22, before the general immunization campaign began.
“As a result of the recent revelation about the vaccination of President Vizcarra and his wife and the understandable impact that this news has had on public opinion, I am aware of the serious mistake I made, which is why I decided not to receive the second dose. For the aforementioned reasons, I have presented to the President of the Republic my letter of resignation from the position of Minister of Foreign Affairs, “he said on his Twitter account.
And yours might not be the last head to roll.
On Sunday Sagasti ordered that all government officials who have received vaccines from Sinopharm be separated from their positionsTherefore, an internal investigation has already been ordered to identify them.
“I really feel indignant and furious about this situation that endangers the enormous effort of many Peruvians who work on the first line of defense against covid-19,” Sagasti said during an interview with América Televisión’s “Cuarto Poder” program. .
“It’s really a thing that I still can’t understand or understand how is it possible that some officials have not taken this situation into account or into consideration, “added the president, who also harshly criticized the handling of the situation in Vizcarra.
“The previous president has tried to justify, to raise and to turn to something that was unacceptable on the part of a first president. […] It is a very hard blow that has been given to us and that is inherited from the Government of Vizcarra, “he declared.
Peru is one of the Latin American countries hardest hit by the coronavirus pandemic, registering more than 40,000 deaths to date and more than 1.24 million cases of covid-19.
And it is not yet known when the bulk of the population will begin to be vaccinated, although health workers who are on the front line of fighting the virus began to be vaccinatedfromFebruary 8.
Phase three clinical trials of the Sinopharm vaccine, however, took place in the country starting in September last year – with Vizcarra still in the country’s presidency – with the participation of 11,500 volunteers.
And 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.”
“This is not considered research activity and no data will be collected for the purpose of analysis,” specified in the research protocol.
According to the UPCH, these “courtesy vaccines”, as they have been baptized by the Peruvian press, “were administered to the personnel of the investigation team and people related to the study“And the decision of who to give this vaccine was made by the research team.”
But, for many, it is necessary to be very generous with that definition to include in it the President of the Republic and the Minister of Foreign Affairs.
The academic institution – which said it rejected “the terminology of courtesy vaccines, donations or perks that has been used in some media” – has already been put in any case available to the competent authorities “to collaborate with all investigations” in process.
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 did not affect “the process of obtaining vaccines for our country.”
As the newspaper El Comercio highlights, this type of episode “cloud a vaccination process that, in the last week, he had been giving us some reasons to show some hope in the midst of so much misfortune. “
But in addition, Peruvians are called to elect a new president in less than two months, on April 11.
And that vote will surely be informed by this new disappointment.
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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.