Peru’s foreign minister resigned on Tuesday after admitting that she received an early dose of a Chinese coronavirus vaccine candidate before Peru had officially launched its vaccination campaign.
Peruvian President Francisco Sagasti said on Monday that he had accepted Elizabeth Astete’s resignation from the role of foreign minister. He added that an official probe was underway to determine how Astete and a slew of other senior Peruvian government officials had received early doses of a coronavirus vaccine candidate manufactured by China’s state-run pharmaceutical company Sinopharm.
Astete led Peruvian government negotiations to purchase the Sinopharm vaccine candidate. She said in a statement on Sunday that she received a Sinopharm coronavirus vaccine candidate on January 22, adding that she believed the shot was one of the “remaining doses of the batch held by the Cayetano Heredia University.” Astete referred to the Peruvian university in charge of clinical trials for the vaccine candidate.
Her statement echoed the claim made by former Peruvian President Martín Vizcarra on February 11 that he and his wife, Maribel Díaz Cabello, received early doses of the Sinopharm vaccine candidate in October as part of Cayetano Heredia University’s clinical trials. The university later denied that the former president and first lady had participated in their trials. Vizcarra was ousted from the office of the president in November amid corruption allegations.
“As a result of the recent disclosure about the vaccination of (former) President Vizcarra and his wife, as well as the understandable impact that this news had on public opinion, I am aware of the serious mistake I made, which is why I decided not to receive the second dose,” Astete said in her February 14 statement.
Peru’s deputy health minister, Luis Suárez Ognio, has also resigned over reports that he received the Sinopharm vaccine candidate early.
The first official batch of Sinopharm’s coronavirus vaccine candidate arrived in Peru on February 7. The government began distributing the 300,000 vials to frontline health care workers on February 9.
“We reiterate our indignation and disappointment after being informed that 487 people, including many senior officials, took advantage of their position to be immunized with the Sinopharm vaccines, which came as a complement to those used in clinical trials in our country,” President Sagasti said in a televised address on Monday night.
“We are outraged, and this causes us a deep feeling of pain, because these people who made up our Transition and Emergency Government, failed to fulfill their duty as public servants and to show loyalty to the President of the Council of Ministers and me,” Sagasti added, as quoted by Peruvian state media outlet Andina.