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Argentina president says no law broken in vaccine scandal

AFP logo AFP 2/23/2021 AFP
Alberto Fern├índez holding a sign: Argentine president Alberto Fernandez, pictured at a press conference during an official visit to Mexico, called the vaccine line-jumping incident in his country "reprehensible" but warned that vaccines should not be politicized © Alfredo ESTRELLA Argentine president Alberto Fernandez, pictured at a press conference during an official visit to Mexico, called the vaccine line-jumping incident in his country "reprehensible" but warned that vaccines should not be politicized

Argentina's President Alberto Fernandez said Tuesday that no crime had been committed in a scandal over coronavirus vaccine queue-jumping that forced his health minister to resign.

Fernandez, on an official visit to Mexico, called the incident "reprehensible" but said that the issue of vaccines was "very sensitive" and should not be politicized.

"I've read that they've made a complaint ... Let's end the nonsense!" Fernandez said as he joined Mexican President Andres Manuel Lopez Obrador at his daily news conference.

"I ask the prosecutors and judges to do what they must," he said, adding that there was "no such crime" as vaccine queue-jumping under Argentinian law.

Gines Gonzalez Garcia quit as health minister on Friday at the request of Fernandez after it emerged that his friends had been able to skip the line for coronavirus inoculation.

Fernandez said he did not rule out further resignations.

"Those who have to go are going to have to go because I never promoted or endorsed any of that," he said.

Fernandez himself received Russia's Sputnik V coronavirus vaccine in January in what he said was an effort to encourage others to be inoculated.

"I had to have the vaccine because the Argentine media said that the Russian vaccine could not be trusted," the 61-year-old said.

The two leaders also issued a joint plea for greater efforts to tackle vaccine inequality.

Fernandez said that he would seek Mexico's support for a proposal for the G20 to ask coronavirus vaccine makers to waive their intellectual property rights "so all countries can produce them freely."

Lopez Obrador urged the United Nations to do more to ensure equal access to vaccines against a virus that has killed more than 180,000 people in Mexico -- one of the world's highest tolls.

"There are more than 100 countries that do not have a single dose of the vaccine. This is totally unfair," he said.

Mexico began mass vaccination on December 24, starting with health workers, but like many countries is constrained by limited supplies.

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