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Transfer of vaccines against COVID-19 in Peru. PHOTOGRAPHY: El Comercio / ZUMA PRESS / CONTACTOPHOTO
Transfer of vaccines against COVID-19 in Peru. PHOTOGRAPHY: El Comercio / ZUMA PRESS / CONTACTOPHOTO

'Vaccinegate,' scandal in Peru confirms 487 officials received the vaccine in secret

The latest scandal in Peru has erupted after it was confirmed that 487 people took advantage of their public position to receive the COVID-19 vaccine secretly.

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Peru's President Francisco Sagasti confirmed Monday night that 487 people were secretly vaccinated. Many public officials took advantage of their position to be immunized with Sinopharm vaccines in the last third of 2020.

Sagasti affirmed that the people involved in this irregular act would be separated from their positions because "they have no place in this government" and assured that the Executive would continue with the negotiations to achieve the vaccines to immunize the entire population.

The President addressed the country in a press conference accompanied by the President of the Council of Ministers, Violeta Bermudez, and said he was outraged and disappointed to learn that 487 people, public officials, and close associates, took advantage of their position to be immunized with the Sinopharm vaccines that came as a complement to the vaccines used in the country's clinical trials, according to Agencia Andina.

Among the people who received the vaccine against covid19 without being entitled to it is the former Minister of Health Pilar Mazzetti, who a few days ago denied having received it, and the Minister of Foreign Affairs Elizabeth Astete, who resigned from her position after admitting that she had been vaccinated irregularly. According to the newspaper El Comercio, Mazzetti was vaccinated in mid-January of this year and received the second dose on February 6 at the Universidad Peruana Cayetano Heredia (UPCH), according to the sources of Sinopharm's testing program. That is, before the arrival of the first batch of vaccines against the coronavirus.

The case of former President Martin Vizcarra has also caused great indignation in the country. Along with his wife and a brother, Vizcarra received the vaccine in October, shortly before Congress vacated him. The former president said publicly that he was a "volunteer" in the Sinopharm vaccine trial before the vaccine received the green light on December 31, but the Cayetano Heredia University denied it. "I submit myself to the investigations (of the prosecutor's office) in the interest of clarifying this situation," Vizcarra said, denying that he had "lied" or committed any crime.
After other officials admitted receiving the vaccine unofficially, the Minister of Health, Óscar Ugarte, announced that the Government would open an investigation into this scandal, as it would imply that they would have reached a series of agreements with pharmaceutical companies to immunize themselves behind the population's back.

On Sunday, it was revealed that Sinopharm had delivered 3.200 extra doses, in addition to those destined for the 12,000 volunteers. For its part, the Chinese embassy communicated that "it has no information on the identity of those vaccinated" since Peruvian universities carried out the trial.
The case has outraged the entire country, which also feels powerless to mobilize against what has happened due to the total confinement in which the country finds itself because of the second wave of the pandemic, and because of the fear of the situation, since the number of infections and deaths in the second wave quadrupled the figures for December.

This scandal is a reflection of the ethical level of the Peruvian political class, "You cannot inoculate yourself and your family (...) when there are people in the front line, doctors, who have died", worker Anaís Rojas told AFP.  In other parts of the world, some presidents and officials have been vaccinated in public to set an example to society. Still, in Peru, criticism points out that some authorities received the doses in advance without announcing it.

So far, Peru has received one million doses of the Chinese vaccine, of which 77,000 have been applied to health personnel, but there is still no date for the vaccination of the rest of the population. With 43,703 deaths due to COVID-19, in addition to the 1.23 million confirmed cases, the 'Vaccinegate' demonstrates the enormous lack of ethics, which can be considered a crime against public health in the country.

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