Argentina releases list of Covid-19 vaccine recipients as scandal widens

Through last week, Argentina had only administered 634,000 doses of Russia's Sputnik V vaccine. PHOTO: REUTERS

BUENOS AIRES (BLOOMBERG) - Argentina's government released the names of dozens of officials and allies who secretly got vaccinated against Covid-19 in an apparent violation of the country's guidelines, attempting to contain a growing political scandal.

The list of about 70 people disclosed on Monday (Feb 22) by the government includes leaders from the ruling Peronist party, mid-level government officials and family members who received the shots. The release comes after President Alberto Fernandez fired his health minister, Gines Gonzalez Garcia, on Friday, when the preferential access to the vaccine was made public.

According to government protocols, the 763,000 essential workers at hospitals are first in line for vaccines, followed by adults 70 years or older and seniors living in geriatric facilities. Through last week, Argentina had only administered 634,000 doses of Russia's Sputnik V vaccine. The government issued a clarification Monday that people with "strategic functions" qualify for vaccinations.

The scandal, dubbed "VIP Vaccination" by local press, is particularly damaging for the President, who for months has promised that vaccines would be distributed fairly, ahead of mid-term elections in October. Fernandez's government is also way off its inoculation target, having promised to vaccinate 10 million people by the end of February.

Among those on the list: Fernandez's close friend, lawmaker Eduardo Valdes, 65; Economy Minister Martin Guzman, who is 38, and several of his advisers; and former President Eduardo Duhalde, 79, together with his wife and daughters.

The list includes people who were vaccinated at Argentina's Health Ministry and Hospital Posadas in the Buenos Aires area. However, the list does not include other leaders who received vaccines, such as Vice-President Cristina Fernandez de Kirchner, who was vaccinated at a different hospital in January, according to her Twitter account.

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