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ARGENTINA | 23-02-2021 14:09

Fernández fights back as 'VIP vaccine' scandal grows

Peronist leader says that while he rejects the “irregular” vaccinations, it had already cost the resignation of his health minister Ginés González García and did not amount to a crime.

President Alberto Fernández says a growing scandal over Covid-19 vaccine line-cutting involving officials and key political allies is an overblown media campaign, rejecting suggestions that any crime was committed.

Using a combative tone, the Peronist leader on Tuesday said that while he rejected the “irregular” vaccinations, it had already cost the resignation of his health minister Ginés González García and did not amount to a crime.

The statements follow local reports that a federal judge ordered a search warrant on the Health Ministry and a probe on González García following the publication of a list of about 70 people vaccinated out of turn.

“Without a doubt, it’s a reprehensible act because in the circumstances in which we live in, nobody can support that someone has the possibility to get vaccinated ahead of time,” Fernández said during a press conference in Mexico City, standing alongside Mexican President Andrés Manuel López Obrador. “There’s no crime in Argentina that says one will be punished for skipping the line – that crime doesn’t exist.”

A spokesman for the Health Ministry didn’t respond to requests for comment on the reported raids at the government offices.

Newly appointed Health Minister Carla Vizzotti announced Tuesday that her team will create a commission to monitor how vaccines are administered to “strategic” people. The portfolio plans to publish a list of the individuals who qualify under the new protocols.

Fernández added that a list of vaccine recipients published late Monday needs to be examined more closely as some of the people in it include strategic personnel. He urged media to instead investigate corruption under the previous administration.

The scandal, dubbed “VIP vaccinations” locally, has diverted attention away from Fernández’s most important foreign policy trip, where government strategists sought to brandish his image as a leader of vaccines in Latin America. Mexico and Argentina are co-producing the AstraZeneca Plc vaccine for use in the region.

The list’s disclosure furthered public outcry as it showed mid-level government officials – including young aides – and family members among the recipients, breaking with protocols that essential workers at hospitals and senior citizens be first in line.

by Patrick Gillespie & Carolina Millan, Bloomberg

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