Ecuador has named a new health minister after the previous minister stepped down over alleged irregularities in the country’s Covid-19 vaccination program.
President Lenin Moreno on Monday announced that Rodolfo Farfán, a 63-year-old surgeon from Guayaquil, who served as vice minister for comprehensive care in the country’s health ministry, would replace Juan Carlos Zevallos. Zevallos resigned on February 26 after questions were raised about his participation in an inoculation effort at a nursing home where his mother lives.
Zevallos, who holds joint Ecuadorian and U.S. citizenship, left Ecuador Saturday night on a flight to Miami, telling friends that he needed a vacation.
Moreno tweeted on Monday that he has confidence in Farfan’s management of Ecuador’s vaccination program. The country’s vaccine rollout has gotten off to a slow start with less than 50,000 doses of the Pfizer vaccine being administered by the end of February. The pace of vaccine acquistion is picking up, however, as the health ministry signed new deals last week for four million additional doses from three providers.
Farfán earned a master’s degree in higher education from University of Guayaquil and a PhD in education and a medical degree from the University of Glasgow in Scotland. He has more than 38 years of experience in the public and private medical field as well as in research and teaching.
Ecuador has reported more than 286,000 cases of Covid-19 and more than 15,800 coronavirus-related deaths, according to the Johns Hopkins University Covid data center. Except for an extreme outbreak of cases and deaths that overwhelmed hospitals in Guayaquil in April, Johns Hopkins reports that Ecuador has fared better than neighboring South American countries in the pandemic.
In addition to Zevallos, other Latin American government officials have been forced to resign in recent weeks, as well, for Covid-19 vaccine queue-jumping and other alleged infractions regarding the rollout of vaccines.
Argentina’s Health Minister Gines Gonzalez Garcia resigned on February 19 after he was accused of allowing people to sidestep the proper procedure to get jabs.
The government later released a list of 70 people who received the vaccine outside of the official campaign, including the 38-year-old economy minister and former President Eduardo Duhalde, his wife and their children. Thousands of people rallied across Argentina at the weekend for what has been dubbed the “VIP vaccinations” scandal, holding signs reading, “Give me my vaccine” and “Stop wasting our money”.
Meanwhile, in Peru, the health and foreign ministers were forced to step down last month after it was revealed almost 500 government officials secretly received Covid-19 jabs before the vaccines were available to the public. Interim President Francisco Sagasti said 487 officials, including the former ministers who stepped down, took advantage of their posts to receive early inoculations.