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Coronavirus

Ecuador’s new health minister resigns after short 19-day term

Published: Updated:

Ecuador’s health minister resigned Friday after just 19 days in the job, the government said, amid a growing scandal over the distribution of COVID-19 vaccines to well-connected figures.

In his letter of resignation, Rodolfo Farfan stressed that he was stepping down for “strictly personal” reasons.

Read the latest updates in our dedicated coronavirus section.

Ecuadorian president Lenin Moreno - whose term ends on May 24 - has named surgeon Mauro Falconi as the new minister.

Farfan replaced Juan Carlos Zevallos, currently under investigation for influence peddling, who fled the country for the United States after his resignation.

Zevallos had admitted that his mother, aged 87, and others close to him had been vaccinated with the first doses received in Ecuador.

It was then revealed that well-connected politicians, academics, journalists and sports officials had been vaccinated, at a time when jabs were only intended for frontline health workers and elderly care homes and the country struggled to get its immunization program off the ground.

Just 119,000 people have so far received the first dose of the Pfizer jab, in a country that has registered 307,000 infections and 16,333 deaths.

Ecuador is not the only country in the region to have been embroiled in vaccination queue-jumping scandals.

Peru and Argentina have also been hit by outcries over the rich and powerful getting their coronavirus jabs ahead of vulnerable groups.

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