The mayors of Quito and Guayaquil, the cities hardest hit by the coronavirus pandemic in Ecuador, presented formal requests to the Lenín Moreno government for the direct purchase of vaccines against covid-19.
In a letter sent to Moreno, the mayor of Guayaquil Cynthia Viteri expressed her concern about “the slow process of distribution” of vaccines in the country. In that sense, he asked for the “free import of vaccines against covid-19 for Guayaquil and Ecuador.”
Viteri added that, if the government allows it, the municipality of Guayaquil, private companies (including the private health sector) could be authorized to purchase the vaccines.
Viteri’s letter, reproduced on his official Twitter account this Thursday, it is also signed by several representatives of business associations. As well as by the Guayaquil Charity Board, the Guayas Medical College and some private clinics in the city.
Mayor: Quito will buy vaccines, “with or without authorization” from the government of Ecuador
The Municipality of Quito reported that Mayor Jorge Yunda sent a similar request to President Lenín Moreno in December. In the application, Yunda was willing to facilitate the implementation of the vaccination plan. In addition to supporting the acquisition and distribution of vaccines for the capital of Ecuador.
Yunda wrote this Thursday on his Twitter account that, “with or without authorization”, Quito will buy vaccines. In addition, that you will assume the consequences of doing it directly.
«We are already advancing the acquisition so that the moment we have the green light we can announce the acquisition of the vaccines to the city of Quito. The idea is to try to buy more vaccines and get the best price. There is US $ 20 million liquid for the purchase of vaccines, “Yunda said in statements to the radio of the Mayor of Quito this Thursday. He added that several municipal works will have to be rescheduled in the capital to cover the cost.
Bernardo Abad, a Quito councilor, told Citizen Free Press that Mayor Yunda makes this announcement without financial support. “There is no money because we did not approve in the Council any type of amount for vaccines. It is not within budget. And it does not have a budget certification either, which is essential to start any negotiation, “he said.
In addition, Abad indicated that “for the central government itself it is almost impossible to get many vaccines. And it happens with the countries in the world that, asking for vaccines, pharmaceutical companies cannot supply them, “he said.
The Ministry of Health of Ecuador has informed within its vaccination plan that the acquisition and distribution of the doses are exclusively in charge of the central government through this entity. And it has not opened the possibility of direct purchase to any private company or municipal government so far.
In Ecuador there is no legal prohibition that prevents private companies or municipalities from importing vaccines. But, due to the pandemic, the Ministry of Public Health issued a resolution authorizing the Agency for Regulation, Control and Sanitary Surveillance (Arcsa) –– entity that approves the entry of medicines or drugs into the country–– to take charge of authorize the importation of doses against covid-19.
Yunda is being investigated on suspicion of corruption
Mayor Jorge Yunda was linked this Tuesday in an investigation for alleged participation in the crime of embezzlement for the irregular purchase of 100,000 PCR test kits in 2020. The judge in the case ordered the placement of a surveillance device for the mayor, his periodic presentation to justice. In addition, it prohibited him from leaving the country while the investigations progress.
Yunda has defended the acquisition of the evidence. He has also maintained that if he has to go to jail for saving lives, he will go “with his head held high.”
According to councilor Abad, Mayor Yunda’s announcement of a possible purchase of vaccines for Quito seeks to “divert attention from his legal situation.”
Rodrigo Henríquez, a research physician at the University of the Americas, considers that the mayors of Quito and Guayaquil «fail to understand that their requirement to buy vaccines for their cities is unfair with the rest of Ecuadorians who do not live in Guayaquil or Quito and it deepens inequities ». In addition, Henríquez assures, “it is not a money problem but a global shortage.”
Until this Wednesday, two batches totaling 24,570 doses of the Pfizer / BioNTech vaccine have arrived in Ecuador, according to the Ministry of Health.
The government reported that it has negotiated 18 million doses of covid-19 vaccines with different pharmaceutical companies. This amount would serve to inoculate 9 million inhabitants. Ecuador has a population of 17 million people.