Jalisco Governor Enrique Alfaro on Tuesday took aim at federal Deputy Health Minister Hugo López-Gatell for a lack of flexibility with regard to the rollout of Covid-19 vaccines.
After a meeting with federal officials at the National Palace in Mexico City, Alfaro asserted that the pandemic czar is refusing to alter the vaccination strategy to deploy a greater number of vaccines to locations that need them most due to growing coronavirus outbreaks and rising hospitalizations.
He cited Puerto Vallarta, a resort city on the Jalisco coast, as one example of a city to which greater numbers of vaccines should be dispatched.
The governor claimed that López-Gatell’s “stubbornness” was a barrier to an effective vaccination plan that can be changed depending on the coronavirus situation in different parts of the country.
An effective plan, Alfaro charged, is one in which inoculation is “concentrated on where the [coronavirus] problem is growing” in order to protect people’s health and the economy. But the federal government’s pandemic chief is not interested in modifying the current plan, he said.
“López-Gatell’s stubbornness is absolute, I said it to the Interior Minister [Olga Sánchez] as well. We believe it’s unacceptable that we’re continuing to see this attitude from the deputy minister, … who has been like this during the entire pandemic. He truly is a completely irresponsible person,” Alfaro said.
He said that he would continue to insist on the need for states to be involved in decisions about where vaccines should be deployed. Hospitalizations of Covid patients are on the rise in Puerto Vallarta but there is no plan to ramp up vaccination in the city, the governor lamented.
“It truly is a matter of common sense. … In Vallarta, for example, the number of hospitalizations shot up and we’re suggesting that we can focus vaccination efforts on this very important tourist destination … because the level of risk there is greater,” Alfaro said.
“The response [from the federal government] is that there is no response, we think that is unacceptable and … it once again proves not just the kind of official this man [López-Gatell] is but also the kind of person he is,” he said.
Alfaro, an independent governor formerly affiliated with the Citizens Movement party, has been an outspoken critic of the federal government’s management of the pandemic, and claimed a year ago that López-Gatell allocated a red light to Jalisco on the coronavirus stoplight map “because he felt like it.”
He has also accused the deputy minister of making politically motivated decisions in his management of the pandemic and asserted that his “impulses” have cost a lot of lives.
López-Gatell, a Johns Hopkins University-trained epidemiologist, has faced widespread criticism for his pandemic response but has retained the backing of President López Obrador.
Meanwhile, Mexico is amid a worsening third wave of the pandemic as the Delta strain of the virus circulates in many if not most states. The federal Health Minister reported 13,853 new cases on Wednesday and 341 additional Covid-19 deaths.
The accumulated totals stand at 2.67 million cases and 236,810 fatalities, while there are almost 86,000 active cases across the country, according to Health Ministry estimates. Despite the recent surge in cases, hospitalizations and deaths are down in comparison with the first two waves due to vaccination.
The Health Ministry reported Tuesday that more than 565,000 doses were administered Monday, lifting the total number of shots given to 55.1 million. Just over four in 10 adults – 43% – have received at least one vaccine shot and the majority of older Mexicans are fully vaccinated.
With reports from Reforma