In this photo released by the Peruvian Presidency, then Secretary of State Elizabeth Astete is shown during the inauguration ceremony of President Francisco Sagasti’s new cabinet on November 18, 2020 in the Presidential Palace in Lima, Peru. Luis Iparraguire / Handout /
Peru’s Foreign Minister Elizabeth Astete resigned on Sunday evening after announcing that she had received a dose of Sinopharm Covid-19 vaccine outside of clinical trials and before the country began rolling out vaccination.
In a statement posted on social media, Astete said that after contacting several officials who tested positive for Covid-19 in December 2020 and January 2021, she accepted an offer to take a dose of the Sinopharm vaccine on January 22nd to receive what she understood as “the remaining doses of the Cayetano Heredia University batch”.
The 68-year-old Astete cited travel obligations for work and had to undergo a Covid-19 test after coming into contact with people who tested positive as factors that positively influenced her decision to have a vaccination in January.
In a statement, Astete said:
Given the recent vaccination disclosure of (former) President Vizcarra and his wife, and the understandable impact of this news on public opinion, I am aware of the grave mistake I made in which I decided to receive the second dose. ”
“I have submitted my resignation from the office of Foreign Minister to the President of the Republic.”
Astete’s resignation comes after local media reported last week that former President Martin Vizcarra and his wife Maribel Diaz Cabello were vaccinated in office last October and did not disclose that information to the public.
On Thursday, Vizcarra said he volunteered as one of the 12,000 people who participated in the Sinopharm vaccine trials.
On Saturday, Cayetano Heredia University (UCH) – the leading university responsible for this study – released a statement clarifying that Vizcarra and his wife were not part of the vaccination study, which began in September.
Peru’s President Francisco Sagasti accepted Astete’s resignation on Sunday evening and said on Twitter that the health minister had ordered an investigation into high-ranking officials who received doses of the vaccine.
“With the transparency and firmness that characterize our government, we will publish the results of the investigation and the information provided by the Center for Clinical Studies at Cayetano Heredia University,” said Sagasti.
Sagasti also confirmed the resignation of Deputy Health Minister Luis Suárez Ognio after local media reported that he was also vaccinated.
Sagasti spoke to the local radio RPP on Sunday evening about his outrage over the scandal, saying the doses used to vaccinate government officials were donated by Sinopharm – and were not part of the batch used for the trials conducted by UCH was used.
Peru became the first Latin American country to distribute China’s Sinopharm vaccine on February 9th. Although other agreements have been made with Pfizer / BioNTech and Oxford / Astrazeneca, China’s Sinopharm vaccine is the only Covid-19 vaccine currently marketed in the country.