Argentine president vows to correct mistakes after VIP vaccine scandal
General view of the Argentine Congress in Buenos Aires, where president Alberto Fernandez (l) delivered a speech on the State of the Nation on March 1, 2021. EFE-EPA/ Natacha Pisarenko
Argentine President Alberto Fernandez (l) delivers his State of the Nation speech before a session of the country's Congress in Buenos Aires on March 1, 2021, accompanied by Vice President Cristina Fernandez (r). EFE-EPA/ Natacha Pisarenko
Buenos Aires, Mar 1 (efe-epa).- Argentine President Alberto Fernandez on Monday during his speech at the opening of extraordinary congressional sessions referred to the "obligation to correct mistakes" in the country's anti-Covid vaccination campaign after the scandal that erupted over the irregular administration of vaccine doses to politically powerful people or those close to them.
"No government on Earth can say it makes no mistakes, but every sensitive government has the obligation to correct those mistakes to uncover any indication of privilege and lack of solidarity," he said.
The president also referred to the measures that he took with "great sorrow," such as asking for the resignation of Health Minister Gines Garcia Gonzalez, and deciding to appoint Carla Vizzotti to replace him.
"When it was said that those rules had been broken, I took it upon myself to collect the relevant information, (and) even though it personally caused me much sorrow I made the appropriate decisions," he said.
The president said that the vaccination plan's "rules must be complied with" as the program moves forward "week to week" and which the country is undertaking using Russia's Sputnik V and China's Sinopharma vaccines, along with production from India's Serum Institute, although in the Russian case the supply has been less than originally agreed to between Buenos Aires and Moscow.
"Since the end of December, we've been receiving doses of the Sputnik V vaccine at a slower rate than we had contractually agreed to," Fernandez said.
The president mentioned the criticism that the opposition leveled at the government months after the announcement of the agreement with Russia to distribute its vaccine, criticism that included a criminal complaint "for poisoning the population."
"All of them, shortly afterwards and to general amazement, pointed their accusatory fingers demanding that the alleged poison that we were administering was not enough," he declared.
Along those lines, he expressed his intention not to let himself be "bewildered by malicious criticism."
"I did not take office as president to be deaf to well-intentioned criticism, and I didn't take office to allow myself to be bewildered by malicious criticism," he said.
The scandal known as the "VIP vaccination" scandal broke on Feb. 19 when it became known that a number of people close to the government had received anti-Covid vaccine by moving to the head of the line, even though they were not in "priority" categories of the population.
The government released a list of 70 people who had received the vaccines in this manner, including former President Eduardo Duhalde, who governed from 2002-2003, and his family, along with Peronist leaders such as Carlos Zannini and Daniel Scioli.
Argentina is the No. 3 Latin American country in terms of numbers of confirmed Covid-19 cases - after Brazil and Colombia - with more than 2.1 million people known to have been infected, and at least 51,000 people have died in Argentina as a result of the virus.