Ecuador: Scandalous Use of Influence to Obtain COVID-19 Vaccine 

By Liset García on March 17, 2021

The scandal about VIP access to COVID-19vaccines in Ecuador continues to be red-hot, as are the archives that tell us of the increasing spread of the pandemic, which has caused more than 302,000 infections and 16,240 deaths in the country.

Only 167,370 doses of vaccine have arrived in Ecuador, and it appears that there is a lack of transparency in their distribution and no clear plan for immunization, according to the accusations of several professional organizations of doctors and nurses; added to that is the fact that many citizens have not been able to sign up for the Get Vaccinated Plan, due to problems with the system.

In various messages on social media networks, people are named who have been vaccinated, but who are not healthcare workers, who were supposed to have been the priority, according to the Ministry of Public Health.

Since the end of January, the trafficking in influence in distribution and access to vaccines has been evident, causing the Attorney General’s Office to announce the start of an investigation of Juan Carlos Zevallos, the Minister of Health, who finally resigned his position on February 26.  He was replaced by Rodolfo Farfan.

The resignation of Minister of Health Zevallos occurred after the National Assembly of Ecuador demanded that President Lenin Moreno dismiss him, due to his poor management of the vaccination plan.

One of the occurrences that set off the explosion of protests was the vaccination carried out last January 25 in the Geriatric Center of the Hospital de los Valles, which is an exclusive private residence where several elderly people live who are family members of Zevallos, as the ex-Minister of Health himself admitted.

In spite of these many accusations, the authorities delayed until March 15 before activating the website for seeking vaccine appointments – the Get Vaccinated Plan – for elderly people.  It was supposed to allow sign-ups starting on the first hour of the 15th, but it did not work. On Tuesday the 16th, it was supposedly ready, but the difficulties continued.  A number of people pointed out that it took between 30 minutes and an hour to sign up elders in their family.

Other scandals were circulated via social media last week when it was discovered that two young people well-known on the TikTok social media site were able to get vaccinated in the hospital at Guayaquil. They entered dressed as health care workers, as was revealed after an investigation that showed that March 11, when they were recorded in a widely shared video, was actually their second dose, after they received their first doses in February.

Also making the rounds on social media was another video showing the vaccination of 560 members of the Rotary Club, in an exclusive area of the city of Samborondon, in Guayas Province.  “Here we are, getting the Pfizer vaccine at the Rotary Club,” said a woman in the video recording.  The Ministry of Health had included the Club as a vaccination site, but for people over 65.  However, the video showed people of all ages.  One Twitter user asked, “Were they told that they could be vaccinated without being on the sign-up list, and even before front-line doctors?”

The video has unleashed a lot of anger for people in Ecuador, who are saying that this was yet another scandal, within the greater scandal of what has been called “VIP vaccination” which ignores the fact that it should be the healthcare personnel working in the hot zone confronting the pandemic who should be the first to be vaccinated.

The distinguished Uruguayan – Ecuadorian essayist Kintto Lucas also tweeted,  “Rotarians who celebrate getting vaccinated while the poor die.  A lying president with a cynical face and attitude.  A banker who helped to bankrupt the country (Carlos Lasso) who wants to be president.  Welcome to the country of shame!”

In another Twitter message, Mauri Arevalo stated that “it is important that each person weighs in the balance the difference between the ten years of citizen revolution that we had, compared with the last four years of neoliberalism.  Ten years of fairness and development.  Four years of going backward.”

Source: Resumen Latinoamericano – Cuba, translation Resumen in English