Keys to the "VIP vaccination" scandal that shook Argentina

The resignation of the Argentine Minister of Health, Ginés González García, hides the business of the friends of power.

Health personnel handling a vaccine

Acts of corruption aggravate the health and social crisis that is being experienced around COVID-19. Photo: Freepik

Ariel Cipolla

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Leer en español: Claves del escándalo de la “vacunación VIP” que sacudió a la Argentina

Sometimes health crises can lead to political crises. This is what is happening in Argentina, where a major scandal led to the resignation of the current minister of health, Ginés González García, who was in charge of acting throughout the pandemic, after taking office following the disposition of the president, Alberto Fernandez.

Through a statement on Twitter, Ginés admitted that he submitted his resignation as Minister of Health, after the request made by the highest entity in the country. There he expressed his "gratitude to the vast majority of the Argentine people", at the same time he highlighted the health achievements that were achieved during his tenure, which had to bear the COVID-19 pandemic.

The truth is that, despite there being many criticisms for his management of the coronavirus in Argentina, the straw that broke the camel's back was a VIP vaccination scandal that casts doubt on the credibility of all the political actions taken so far, especially in a delicate healthcare context like this.

The VIP vaccination scandal in Argentina

As revealed by Tiempo Argentino, it all began when the journalist Horacio Verbitsky told, in a radio program known as Habrá consequences, which is broadcast on El Uncover Radio and of which he is a regular columnist, that he had received the vaccine on the recommendation of his “friend ”Ginés.

The 79-year-old journalist had previously mentioned that he preferred to wait before receiving the vaccine, as he wanted to know the possible adverse effects of Sputnik-V. However, he mentioned that now he decided to do it. What was really revealing was not the change in posture, but the way in which Verbitsky managed to access the vaccine.

For a few days, the version circulated that in Ginés' office there was a room that functioned as a "VIP vaccination", which is accessed by famous people or who have direct arrival with the minister. For this reason, Verbitsky revealed, without any hesitation, that he wanted to find out where he could get vaccinated and decided to call his “friend” Ginés González García, whom he had known before, who recommended that he attend the Posadas Hospital.

However, when he was about to go, he received a message from the secretary of Ginés, who told him that a team of vaccinators from Posadas was going to arrive at the Ministry to offer him the vaccine. In fact, the former Minister of Health himself, in his statement, mentioned that it was a "mistake" by his secretary, but not by him. Although he admitted the responsibilities, he did not take over the management of the vaccine from his friend, but claimed that it was an "irresponsible mistake."

This whole situation generated a scandal, as quickly all the media, journalists, celebrities, and people expressed their displeasure on social networks. In other words, a system began to be understood in which people with access to Power can more easily access a vaccine, compared to those who do not have those tools.

After knowing these data, this sounds the alarms in other Latin American countries. For example, in Chile, almost 40,000 people received vaccines without being in the priority groups. The same happened in Peru, where local media revealed that some 487 people, including relatives of President Martín Vizcarra and other ministers, had secretly received doses.

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This system of corruption means that people who are not in a “risk situation” can access a dose of vaccine. So, to avoid the loss of credibility, Alberto Fernández quickly decided to ask for his resignation, despite having defended his health management with criteria.

This scandal hits the political discourse generated by the presidency itself and the ministry, in which people would be vaccinated with a criterion of “social justice”, where those most prone to the virus would first agree to obtain the doses.

The Nation highlights that there are other figures involved in the matter, such as Senator Jorge Taiana, Deputy Eduardo Valdés or trade unionist Hugo Moyano, all people of a political nature who are related to the ruling party and who question the criteria with which doses of the vaccine are administered in Argentina.

Until now, the official website of Argentina had recognized that more than 1 million doses of vaccines were distributed in the country. Even the now former Minister of Health and protagonist of this scandal, Ginés González García, had promised that by August of this year "all Argentines would be vaccinated", something difficult to predict, taking into account the current numbers.

This VIP vaccination scandal also causes errors in the health management of Argentina to be evaluated, which exceeded 2 million cases and 51,000 deaths, being one of the most serious countries in the region. However, it could also mean a better analysis of the management of Latin America's resources, understanding that acts of corruption aggravate the health and social crisis that is being experienced.