By Devin Watkins
Argentine Bishop Oscar Vicente Ojea published a message online on Sunday deploring a recent scandal over coronavirus vaccines.
“The vaccine is for the good of all,” said the Bishop of San Isidro, in a video message for the First Sunday of Lent.
Bishop Ojea, who is the President of the Argentine Catholic Bishops’ Conference, recalled Pope Francis’ appeal that Covid-19 vaccines be made available to everyone.
‘Vaccination VIP’ scandal
The Bishop’s words follow on the heels of a recent scandal that led to the Health Minister stepping down.
Gines Gonzalez Garcia tendered his resignation on Friday following reports that several people were able to obtain vaccines without going through the proper channels.
Locally dubbed the “Vaccination VIP” scandal, some 3,000 doses were allegedly redirected to political allies and friends.
The news broke after a journalist, Horacio Verbitsky, revealed he had received a Covid-19 vaccine after speaking with his “old friend” Gonzalez Garcia, despite not yet being eligible according to the country’s roll-out program.
Another case involved a union boss, Hugo Moyano, who was vaccinated along with his family.
In his message, Bishop Ojea lamented the “politicization of the vaccine.”
He said it “must be made universally available: no one should be left without it, and those who deserve special care should be the first to receive it.”
“We need to take particular care in this regard,” he added, “because it is a matter of life and death. When we are dealing with something that can keep people alive, it must not be turned into a political tool.”
“The vaccine,” repeated Bishop Ojea,” is for the good of all.”
Temptation to division
The head of Argentina’s Bishops’ Conference linked the scandal to Sunday’s Gospel, in which Jesus is driven into the desert where He was tempted by the devil.
Jesus, he said, faces something so human: “the battle between good and evil in decision-making.”
“We face a great temptation,” said Bishop Ojea, “to destroy ourselves and to boycott what can do us good.”
Current Covid stats
Fewer than one percent of Argentinians have so far been vaccinated, or around 400,000 people out of a population of 45 million.
As of Monday, the Latin American nation had registered over 2 million cases and more than 51,000 deaths linked to Covid-19.