Argentina’s new health minister pledges fair vaccine access after scandal

Healthcare worker talks to a man recovered from the coronavirus disease (COVID-19) as he donates convalescent plasma, at the Hemotherapy Institute in La Plata, Argentina

Argentina’s new Health Minister Carla Vizzotti was sworn in on Saturday after the country was rattled by a scandal over VIP coronavirus vaccine access, pledging to strengthen oversight and transparency of the inoculation program.

Her predecessor stepped down on Friday after reports that people had been able to use connections to get priority access to COVID-19 vaccines, piling pressure on the center-left government of President Alberto Fernandez.

“We will strengthen the tools and actions that guarantee fairness in access to vaccines, monitoring compliance with the planned process,” Vizzotti, 47, a doctor and specialist in infectious diseases, wrote on Twitter after taking office.

“It is the President’s decision that we carry out the largest vaccination plan in our history with the greatest speed and offer each Argentine the peace of mind that all vaccines are administered according to precise sanitary criteria.”

Argentina’s state attorney for administration investigations has opened a probe into potential abuses of power by the former minister Gines Gonzalez Garcia, who in his resignation letter had blamed “confusion” in his office.

The South American country, with a population of about 45 million, has so far received some 1.22 million doses of the Russian Sputnik V vaccine and 580,000 doses of the Covishield vaccine, manufactured by the Indian Serum Institute.

The scandal mirrors one in Peru earlier this month, which led to the resignation of a number of ministers after it emerged that some 500 people had received early vaccines in secret.

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