Ecuador has its third health minister in a month as anger grows over Covid vaccine rollout

Mar 20, 2021 | 2 comments

Health Minister Rodolfo Farfán resigned Friday, only 19 days after he replaced Juan Carlos Zevallos. Within hours of receiving the resignation, President Lenín Moreno named Mauro Antonio Falconí, director of the Sanitary Regulation and Control Agency, as the new health minister.

Mauro Antonio Falconí, Ecuador’s new health minister.

According to sources quoted by the El Comercio newspaper, Farfán was overwhelmed by the pressure to purchase more Covid-19 vaccines, the alleged scandal of VIPs receiving vaccines and the collapse of a website registering citizens over 65 for vaccinations. “It was simply too much stress for one person to handle,” said an unnamed doctor in the health ministry. “He had no control over the procurement of vaccines or the situation about who received the first vaccines. He was a health professional, not a politician.”

After accepting his new position, Falconí pledged to turn over a list of all those vaccinated as soon as possible and pledged to make sure all vaccines are administered based on the ministry’s priority list of vulnerable populations.

The Attorney General’s office is demanding a complete list of those vaccinated following reports that politicians, two broadcasters and a football coach had received shots ahead of priority groups. Zevallos admitted vaccinating his 87-year-old mother and other residents of a private nursing home. Prosecutors raided health ministry offices Wednesday, confiscating paper records and computer files as it investigates the case.

Falconí has 20 years experience in the public health sector, specializing in emergencies and natural disasters. As director of the Sanitary Regulation and Control Agency, he was responsible for approving vaccines for use in Ecuador.

As of Friday, Ecuador registered only 23,000 citizens as being fully vaccinated. Another 46,000 have received one of two vaccinations.