The vaccination process against COVID-19 in Latin America, which already had problems due to its slowness and inequality, has been marred by the other endemic virus that affects the region: the corruption.
Politicians, public officials, businessmen and those close to them were immunized against the new coronavirus ahead of time amid lies and irregularities in countries such as Peru, Argentina, Brazil and Chile.
The Peruvian “vaccinate”
Uncovering in the region began last week in Peru, where the local press reported that at least 487 people accessed an exclusive batch of the Chinese Sinopharm vaccine in September, while it was still in clinical trials.
In the noise, dubbed “vaccinate”, senior public officials, both from the previous government and the current transition government, were involved.
A quarter of the list of those irregularly vaccinated were state workers. Among them was the recently ousted former president Martin Vizcarra, his wife and brother. Also the Minister of Health, Pilar Mazzetti, who had resigned a few days before, and the Minister of Foreign Affairs, Elizabeth Astete, were secretly vaccinated.
For the political scientist from the Catholic University of Peru Fernando Tuesta, “this is a great disappointment and a hard blow, in general, for the process of fighting the pandemic.” Above all, at times when there are limitations in vaccinating medical personnel on the front line.
“Perhaps the impact will be reflected in the next elections, but the most affected itself has been the government itself, of the Morado party. In addition, a sector that had gained prestige has been damaged: that of science in the area of Health ”, the expert Tuesta tells Deutsche Welle.
Recognized businessmen, academics and even members of the Catholic Church were also involved in the Peruvian “vaccinate”. According to the trial protocol, Sinopharm sent a batch with 3,200 extra doses “to be voluntarily administered to the research team and personnel related to the study”, carried out by the Cayetano Heredia University, and who would have yielded to the request of the authorities and close contacts .
From the Argentine “VIP Vaccination” to the Chilean parallel list
A similar scandal broke out last Friday in Argentina, where the president, Alberto Fernández, called for the resignation of his Minister of Health, Ginés González García, after it was revealed that Those close to him had been vaccinated against COVID-19 at the ministerial headquarters. Hours later, the same minister submitted his resignation from office.
The so-called “VIP vaccination” it was made public when the 71-year-old journalist Horacio Verbitsky told a local radio station that “friends and good contacts,” including him, were privileged with the inoculation. Verbitsky recounted that he himself called his “old friend” to receive the vaccine.
According to the local press, in addition to the journalist, other people close to the Government, including mayors, political activists and provincial officials, have also been vaccinated despite not being within the priority groups established by the country’s vaccination plan, which began on process at the end of December with the Sputnik V vaccine, but progressing slowly due to a shortage of doses.
Chile, meanwhile, despite being one of the leaders of the inoculation process in the region, has seen its campaign tainted by irregularities.
The Department of Health Statistics and Information (DEIS) revealed that some 37,000 people were vaccinated outside of their shift. This scandal of the parallel list, which was already dubbed as the “Chilean vaccinate”, includes people under 60 years of age and without chronic diseases or mandatory requirements to be part of the first vaccination groups.
Around nine thousand people vaccinated irregularly are between 18 and 39 years old; another nine thousand are between 40 and 49 years old, and 17 thousand between 50 and 59 years old.
Among these would be famous personalities and officials. So far no responsibilities have been determined, but the Undersecretary of Health, Paula Daza, has announced that a meticulous investigation will be carried out to determine what happened.
Brazil’s “air vaccines”
On the other hand, in Brazil, the case of the “Air vaccinations”, with which elderly, apparently, were inoculated as part of a simulation.
They thought they were being vaccinated, but received either the puncture with empty syringes or the nurse in charge of the application never pushed the plunger. The matter became known through videos that went viral on social networks.
“If the investigations confirm that there was a deviation of doses, or any other irregularity, the health professional may be accused of the crime of embezzlement, which has penalties that can reach up to twelve years in prison,” the Rio Police said in a statement. de Janeiro, where the complaints came from.
“In general, we have a political, economic and cultural factor here. This is something that we unfortunately see from Mexico to Argentina. Those who possess power or are close to it tend to use it to gain advantage and privilege. The most important thing for them is the connections, which we call influentialism. This shows how deeply rooted these types of practices are, which go against the law, ethics and morality ”, Professor Francisco González, from the School of International Studies at Johns Hopkins University, explains to DW.
Political and scientific consequences
These cases of corruption, according to the expert González, are very serious, taking into account that in Latin America the rates of trust in institutions, authorities and even interpersonal ones are very low: “If one of the key issues in the middle of the pandemic is to Case to the political and health authorities, as these scandals worsen the already precarious confidence. This causes more people to end up feeling very disillusioned and their basic rights violated. We still don’t have a vaccine against corruption ”.
For her part, Theresa Ochoa, a doctor and professor at the Cayetano Heredia University of Peru, regrets that these scandals have started at her institution and that her values and principles as scientists have been questioned.
“We are extremely saddened that a basic ethical principle has been violated within the university, but it is decades that we have been doing research and innovation in many public health issues. We hope that it is not something negative in the fight against the pandemic, ”he tells DW.
A first step to regain credibility has been the resignations of the university authorities involved.
Dr. Ochoa, who is in charge of the trials of the German CureVac vaccine in the country, says that after the “vaccinagate” scandal there was a bit of uncertainty among the volunteers in her trial, “but once the measures that are being taken, the CureVac study continues its course, in the same way as the Sinopharm study should. This is essential for public health ”.