President Alberto Fernández, delivering his first comments on the so-called 'VIP vaccination' scandal, said Sunday that the actions of his health minister had been "unforgivable."
Ginés González García resigned late on Friday after it emerged he had helped freinds and acquaintances cut in line to receive a Covid-19 vaccine.
"Ginés was a great minister, and on top of that I like him. But what he did was unforgivable," Fernández told the Pagina/12 daily, which said it had spoken to him on Saturday.
"Politics is ethical, we have to end these types of practices, with the Argentine culture of liveliness, craftiness [and] the management of influences."
Fernández on Friday asked 75-year-old doctor to resign his post and a day later replaced him with Carla Vizzotti, 48, the former health access secretary who played a key role in securing the Russian Sputnik V vaccine for Argentina.
The scandal broke after 71-year-old journalist Horacio Verbitsky announced on the radio that, owing to his longstanding friendship with González García, he had been able to get vaccinated in his office ahead of the general population.
Since Argentina began vaccinating its people, only healthcare workers had received the jab until Wednesday, when over-70s in Buenos Aires Province were also invited to be immunised. Other regions are now rolling out shots to those aged 70 and over, subject to the amount of doses they have been designated.
"I don't tolerate things like this, nor do I do things like this. I drive my own car; when I wasn't a government official and I was invited to skip the queue via the VIP lounge, I refused it. As president I cannot allow these privileges to be granted," said Fernàndez.
Local media say the public prosecutor's office has opened an investigation into the vaccines scandal.
Vizzotti insisted on Sunday that "in no way was there a VIP immunisation" programme, though on Monday she said that a list of those who had been vaccinated out of turn would be published.
Speaking over the weekend, Vizzotti told Radio 10 that it involved "a small number of people" and that there was no policy of "reserving vaccines for a privileged situation."
Vizzotti said that from now on there would be "a plan to monitor the administration of vaccines."
Argentina, a country of 44 million, has received 1.2 million Sputnik V vaccine doses so far along with 580,000 doses of Covishield from the Serum Institute of India.
The country has recorded more than two million coronavirus cases and over 51,000 deaths.