Argentina president tells health minister to quit over vaccine line-jumping

Argentina's Health Minister Gines Gonzalez Garcia (left) has been asked to resign by President Alberto Fernandez after it emerged that friends of his had skipped the line for a Covid-19 vaccine
Argentina's Health Minister Gines Gonzalez Garcia (left) has been asked to resign by President Alberto Fernandez after it emerged that friends of his had skipped the line for a Covid-19 vaccine Juan MABROMATA AFP/File
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Lima (AFP)

Argentina's President Alberto Fernandez asked his health minister to resign Friday after it emerged that friends of his had skipped the line for a Covid-19 vaccination.

So far only health workers have been vaccinated in Argentina and vaccinations for people aged over 70 only began on Wednesday in the province of Buenos Aires.

The scandal broke after a 71-year-old journalist, Horacio Verbitsky, announced on the radio that, owing to his longstanding friendship with Health Minister Gines Gonzalez Garcia, he had already been able to get vaccinated in his office.

Local media reported that other people close to the government were also vaccinated at the health ministry.

Fernandez, who is in his 60s and was vaccinated in front of cameras to encourage Argentinians to sign up, ordered his chief of staff to ask for the minister's resignation, officials said.

Argentina, with 44 million inhabitants, has recorded some two million Covid-19 cases and suffered more than 50,000 deaths.

In Peru, the government has been rocked by charges against some 500 government officials -- including former president Martin Vizcarra and top ministers -- accused of getting vaccinated ahead of their turn.

Police raided the health ministry and two university clinics on Friday as part of the investigation into what has been termed "Vacunagate."

"The Office of the Special Prosecutor for Corruption of Officials in North Lima initiated preliminary proceedings against those who are responsible for the alleged crimes against the public administration for the use of laboratory vaccines," investigators said on Twitter.

Prosecutors and police officers were seeking information on the irregular vaccination of 487 people, including including former president Martin Vizcarra and top ministers, according to the official list.

The group received some of the 3,200 extra doses provided for the staff in charge of trials of the Chinese Sinopharm vaccine, which included 12,000 Peruvian volunteers.