Ecuador names new health minister after COVID vaccine scandal

Former health minister stepped down amid questions about irregularities in Ecuador’s coronavirus vaccine programme.

A healthcare worker receives a dose of the Pfizer-BioNTech COVID-19 vaccine at the military hospital FFAA in Quito on January 21 [File: Johanna Alarcon/Reuters]

Ecuador has named a new health minister, after the previous minister stepped down over irregularities in a pilot programme for COVID-19 vaccinations.

President Lenin Moreno on Monday announced that Rodolfo Farfan, a 63-year-old surgeon who had served as vice minister for comprehensive care in the country’s health ministry, would replace Juan Carlos Zevallos.

Zevallos resigned on February 26 after questions were raised about his participation in an inoculation effort at a nursing home where his mother lives.

Moreno tweeted on Monday that he has confidence in Farfan’s management of Ecuador’s vaccination programme.

The country has reported more than 286,000 cases of COVID-19 and more than 15,800 coronavirus-related deaths, according to Johns Hopkins University data, and the pandemic has worsened an already dire economic crisis.

Government officials have been forced to resign in other Latin American countries in recent weeks, as well, for COVID-19 vaccine queue-jumping.

Argentina’s Health Minister Gines Gonzalez Garcia resigned on February 19 after he was accused of allowing people to sidestep the proper procedure to get jabs.

The government later released a list of 70 people who received the vaccine outside of the official campaign, including the 38-year-old economy minister and former President Eduardo Duhalde, his wife and their children.

Thousands of people rallied across Argentina at the weekend for what has been dubbed the “VIP vaccinations” scandal, holding signs reading, “Give me my vaccine” and “Stop wasting our money”.

Meanwhile, in Peru, the health and foreign ministers were forced to step down last month after it was revealed almost 500 government officials secretly received COVID-19 jabs before the vaccines were available to the public.

Interim President Francisco Sagasti said 487 officials, including the former ministers who stepped down, took advantage of their posts to receive early inoculations.

People protest against Argentina’s ‘VIP’ vaccine scandal outside the Casa Rosada Presidential Palace in Buenos Aires on February 27 [Agustin Marcarian/Reuters]
Source: Al Jazeera and news agencies