Political treatment

Peru scrambles to secure COVID-19 vaccines after political turmoil.

At the end of 2020, Peru had suffered 37,680 death and 1,015,137 infections from COVID-19, one of the worst affected countries in the region. Unlike other South American countries, there is still no defined date for the start of the country’s vaccination campaign.

Last Wednesday, President Sagasti said that his interim administration had signed a deal with China’s Sinopharm Group which would see 1 million doses delivered in January as part of an agreement to purchase a further 37 million doses. In addition to this, Sagasti announced a deal for 14 million doses of the Oxford / AstraZeneca vaccine but that supply was not due to begin until September!

A social scientist and human rights academic stated, “This is the result of the weakness of the Peruvian state, there is terrible administrative disorder, a high turnover of personnel and a highly centralised and bureaucratic state. Unlike our neighbours, Peru lacks a competent and professional civil service, meaning public management is vulnerable to political turmoil. Therefore, all processes are paralysed during any political crisis.”

“This is the result of the weakness of the Peruvian state, there is terrible administrative disorder, a high turnover of personnel and a highly centralised and bureaucratic state.”

Social scientist and human rights academic, Peru

The population, exhausted by this mismanagement, is demanding answers and so the blame game has begun. Peru’s Prime Minister claims negotiations with vaccine suppliers began in August 2020, but the political upheaval in November meant that Vizcarra’s negotiating teams had to be recreated.

The population is also skeptical about the access they will get to the vaccine. A public health professor typifies the feeling on the ground, “I’m sure we will see practices very similar to those seen in Mexico – corruption and negligence leading to hoarding and creating false lists to ensure government officials are the first to be vaccinated and not those on the front line.”

“I’m sure we will see practices very similar to those seen in Mexico – corruption and negligence…”

Public health professor, Peru

A healthcare professional in Lima explains that the vaccination plans are being designed to enable the elections to go ahead as planned, “In Phase I both public and private health personnel will be vaccinated, then personnel from the armed forces, red cross firefighters, security personnel and members of polling stations. The priority seems to be to make sure the elections happen no matter what.”

The importance of vaccines during the elections is fundamental, especially for the purple party (that of Julio Guzmán) because Sagasti is from the purple party and the logistics and management capacity that the government will have to distribute the vaccines will be crucial. After all, it will impact Julio Guzmán and his party, and also, depending on the results, will serve as ammunition to criticise Sagasti and therefore the purple party.

A scientist in Peru summarised the reality on the ground succinctly, “We must bear in mind that these are politicians in the midst of a crisis, this implies not just a health crisis but a knowledge crisis, it is hard for them to come forward with concrete plans.”

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