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In the furor over secret vaccination of government employees, the Peruvian Foreign Minister resigns

Even as the nation started rolling out doses to health care staff, Peru's foreign minister stepped down amid a furor over government officials being vaccinated against coronavirus.

President Francisco Sagasti said he approved the resignation of Elizabeth Astete and an inquiry was underway into other top public officials who obtained early doses of the vaccine for Covid-19.

Deputy Minister of Health Luis Suárez Ognio has resigned because of allegations that he had been vaccinated in front of health care employees.

The scandal erupted on Thursday when former Peruvian president Martin Vizcarra, who was removed from office on November 9 over accusations of corruption, denied a story in October that he and his wife had received vaccine shots from the Chinese state pharmaceutical corporation Sinopharm.

Vizcarra claimed that he had been vaccinated as part of a clinical trial with his partner, Maribel Diaz Cabello, but Cayetano Heredia University, which is in charge of the experiments, denied that they had enrolled as volunteers.

Speaking to local radio RPP on Sunday night, the president expressed his outrage at the scandal and claimed Sinopharm had donated the doses used to vaccinate government officials and were not part of the batch used for the Cayetano Heredia University trials.

On Friday, Health Minister Pilar Mazzetti resigned. In order to find other officials who were vaccinated last year, the new health minister, Oscar Ugarte, has opened an inquiry, Sagasti said.

"As a result of the recent disclosure about the vaccination of (former) President Vizcarra and his wife, as well as the understandable impact that this news had on public opinion, I am aware of the serious mistake I made, which is why I decided not to receive the second dose," she said.

On February 7, Peru received its first 300,000 doses of the Sinopharm vaccine and two days later began distributing it to frontline health care workers — becoming the first country in Latin America to do so.

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