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UPDATE 2-Argentine President requests the resignation of the Health Minister due to the use of political contacts for access to COVID-19 vaccine

(Updated with comments from the journalist Horacio Verbitsky)

BUENOS AIRES, Feb 19 (.) – Argentine President Alberto Fernández called for the resignation of the Health Minister on Friday after a journalist said he received a COVID-19 vaccine after calling the head of the portfolio, whom he said he knew a long time ago, two government sources said.

Argentina began its vaccination campaign at the end of December, but until this week it had only been applied to officials and health workers. In recent days people over 70 years of age began to be vaccinated, but they must wait their turn after registering on official sites.

“The president gave the indication to the chief of staff to request the resignation of the Minister of Health,” Ginés González García, an Argentine government source told .. Another official source, who did not want his identity to be revealed, also confirmed the request for the resignation of the Minister of Health.

. tried to contact the Argentine Health Ministry, but did not receive an immediate response.

The request for the resignation of González García comes after the Argentine journalist Horacio Verbitsky revealed on the radio station El Uncover that he had received a dose of a vaccine against COVID-19 on Thursday after communicating with the minister, whom he described as ” old friend”.

According to Verbitsky, González García told him that he should go to the Posadas Hospital, in the suburbs of Buenos Aires, to receive the vaccine.

“When I was about to go I received a message from the secretary of Ginés who told me that a vaccination team from Posadas was coming to the ministry and to go to the ministry to give me the vaccine (…) I went to the ministry, the vaccination team was there there, “he said.

Verbitsky’s comments, over 70 years old, caused a stir because in Argentina only on Thursday began to apply vaccines to people of legal age, who have to register on official sites and wait to receive a turn to be vaccinated in designated centers.

As of Wednesday in Argentina, about 250,000 people had received two doses of the COVID-19 vaccine. The country has a population of around 45 million inhabitants.

According to official data, 2.05 million cases of COVID-19 have been registered in Argentina, of which 51,000 died. (Reporting by Marta López and Maximilian Heath; Edited by Rodrigo Charme)