President Lenin Moreno fired Health Minister Mauro Falconí Wednesday night, blaming him for long waits at a Quito Covid-19 vaccination center earlier in the day. According to Moreno, some elderly people were forced to wait five hours due to a delay in vaccine deliveries.
Falconí, who is quarantining at home after testing positive for Covid, served as health minister for only 19 days after replacing Rodolfo Farfán who also served 19 days after replacing Juan Carlos Zevallos on February 26.
According to Martha Moncayo, National Telecommunications director, the long waiting times were the result of a change ordered by Falconí at 2 a.m. Wednesday morning when he asked that doses of the Pfizer vaccine be replaced by the recently received AstraZeneca vaccine. Moncayo said the order caused confusion that led to the delays, which angered Moreno.
“Our older adults deserve more respect than they received today in Quito,” the president said on his Twitter account. “There is no justification for what happened and I have requested the resignation of Minister of Health Falconí.”
Moreno appointed Camilo Salinas, governor of Los Ríos Province, to replace Falconí.
During a a radio interview late Wednesday night, Falconí blamed Vice President Maria Alejandra Muñoz and Moncayo for the confusion that led to the vaccine delays. “They interfered in health ministry’s planning and misrepresented the order I had given regarding the use of the two vaccines,” he said. “Had the original plan been followed there would have been no problem.”
Falconí added that the two women took advantage of his quarantine to “meddle” in vaccine scheduling then used their influence with Moreno to secure his firing. “Outside political interference has been an ongoing obstacle for the ministry since the beginning of the vaccination program,” he said.