Buenos Aires Province Governor Axel Kicillof has dismissed as "lies and absolutely underhand" any suggestions of irregularity in his attempt to recruit prestigious intellectual Beatriz Sarlo for his vaccination awareness campaign in January.
After weeks of news coverage about the allegation, which suggested that Sarlo had been offered an inoculation out of turn, the row was put to rest this week when Sarlo gave testimony to prosecutors denying that claim. She later apologised for any misunderstanding.
Kicillof’s wife Soledad Quereilhac questioned Sarlo more directly, accusing her of succumbing to "media cackle" and "malice."
The governor explained that after ex-deputy Elisa Carrió had equated Russia’s Sputnik V vaccine with poison on December 22, he decided on a campaign recruiting 100 influential personalities to encourage people to vaccinate but with as much publicity as possible in order to counter the "tremendous drive to discredit the vaccine," he told TN television news channel.
Quereilhac, who had made the offer, "had not spoken with Beatriz Sarlo for 20 years" since she was her university lecturer in literature, Kicillof continued, while pointing out that his plan was conceived in a context in which five million doses were scheduled, of which he had proposed to side-track only 100.
Regarding Sarlo’s court testimony, Kicillof said: "She has all the right in the world to refuse but the offer was never made under the table," accusing her of generating a misunderstanding by not speaking out sooner.
The governor said that he suspended the campaign early last month when an article appeared in the prestigious British medical journal The Lancet, recognising Sputnik as 92 percent effective, thus making the campaign unnecessary.
In her Facebook account, Quereilhac wrote that she had “no power to offer vaccines to anybody since I am not a Buenos Aires provincial government official. I have not been vaccinated and I’m waiting my turn like everybody else (including the rest of my family)." Her only contact with Sarlo since the latter left the university in 2004 had been via her books, she added.
Kicillof’s wife went on to accuse Sarlo of "overacting her honesty" at the expense of the entire vaccination drive apart from the aspersions of corruption and nepotism cast against her own person, calling on Sarlo to retract in line with her own claims to be an “ethical person.”
This Sarlo rapidly did the same day with a mea culpa, above all with self-criticism for having implied that there was anything "under the table" about the offer made to her by Quereilhac via her editor Carlos Díaz.
Nevertheless, she stood by her criticisms of Kicillof’s publicity campaign, saying that her invitation had seemed "more typical of a student centre than a state office," and also had harsh words for Comodoro Py federal courthouse for leaking her emails apparently incriminating the Buenos Aires provincial government.
Sarlo also said that she had "a very good relationhip" with Quereilhac because she had been "an excellent student."