Ecuador’s Health Minister Resigns Amid COVID-19 Vaccines Scandal

Juan Carlos Zevallos, the  Ecuadorean health minister, resigned on Friday, February 26th, after receiving criticism on the mistreatment of the COVID-19 vaccine rollout. Zevallos stated in a letter posted to Twitter, “Given the current political situation, and to allow the continuity of the National Vaccination Plan, I present to you, Mr. President, the irrevocable resignation of [my] functions of Minister of Health.” His resignation comes amid the COVID-19 vaccine scandal and investigation by state prosecutors after he participated in distributing vaccines to a private nursing home where his mother lives and to close relatives.

In January 2020, thousands of doses of the Pfizer vaccine were vaccines were provided to Ecuador, and according to government plans, these doses were supposed to go to the front-line medical workers, nursing homes, and the individual who were at high risk. Organizations have been pressuring Zevallos to release the names, which is speculated to consist of other political veteran sports leaders and other individuals who did not need the doses of vaccine provided. The list, however, is considered to be confidential and will most likely not be released. The president of Ecuador, Lenin Moreno, amidst this scandal, defended  Zevallos on Twitter stating, “I prefer to remember the minister who accepted the difficult task of managing the country’s health in the worst health crisis that Ecuador and the world have experienced.”

Since the pandemic started, Ecuador has been hit with devastating effects. At the beginning of February, the Ecuadorian government reported over 10,000 coronavirus-related death. Experts however say that the cases might be higher as there has been low testing for COVID-19. Ecuador has seen other corruption during COVID-19. According to Al Jazeera, many hospitals have reached a maximum capacity, and at least nine hospitals in Ecuador are currently being investigated for embezzlement. In addition, a network that consisted of public health officials have also been recently found guilty of selling disability cards for high prices, tax exemptions, and imported good during the pandemic. Economic crises and disconnect are rampant in Ecuador.

Muzna Erum