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LATIN AMERICA | 15-02-2021 16:15

Two Peruvian top officials resign amid Covid-19 vaccine scandal

Public resentment over officials receiving vaccinations — despite there being no date for a wider immunisation drive — has seen at least two government officials resign.

Two Peruvian government officials resigned last week in the wake of a growing scandal over senior officials receiving Covid-19 vaccines well before the general public.

On Friday, Peru's health minister Pilar Mazzetti presented her letter of resignation to President Francisco Sagasti, the day after national newspaper Peru 21 reported that former president Martín Vizcarra had been vaccinated in secret in October, before the rolling out of a vaccination programme for the general public. 

Vizcarra has insisted he had merely volunteered to take part in a vaccine trial for the Sinopharm jab, arguing he had kept it a secret because "volunteers have to maintain confidentiality."

Mazzetti, who was appointed by Vizcarra, has said she knew nothing about her former boss' secret jab and that those in decision-making positions shouldn't take part in the trials "so as not to skew the results."

Lima's Cayetano Heredia University, which is leading clinical tests of the Sinopharm vaccine, on Sunday denied Vizcarra had been a trial volunteer.

Vizcarra expressed "great surprise" at the university's statement, reiterating he had received two doses as a trial subject.

He insisted there had been no "administrative fault or crime," and warned his actions were being exploited by "enemies of the country."

Then on Sunday night, Peu’s foreign minister Elizabeth Astete stepped down, after admitting to having received a Covid-19 vaccine last month. 

On Twitter, the top diplomat called it a "serious mistake" and said she would not get a second dose.

Peru only began its immunisation programme on Tuesday, two days after receiving 300,000 vaccine doses from state-owned Chinese company Sinopharm. 

There is still no date for a general vaccine rollout, but the government has said it intends to inoculate 10 million people by July.

Peruvian media has speculated there may be numerous officials who are already vaccinated, prompting Sagasti's chief-of-staff and 12 other ministers to state they have yet to be immunised.

The scandal has sparked outrage in the South American nation of 33 million, currently facing a second wave of the virus that has seen cases quadruple.

Peru has recorded more than 1.2 million coronavirus cases and over 43,700 deaths.

— TIMES / AFP

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