The public database of this South American country lists each person’s name, location, type of vaccine, and dose so that citizens can see if anyone has skipped this line.
With a low vaccination rate and being overwhelmed by the coronavirus, the country with the highest Covid-19 mortality rate is taking a novel approach to combat vaccine corruption: the name of each person receiving the vaccine is announced.
For those who want to know whether friends, neighbors, or members of the political elite in Paraguay are among the 400,000 people vaccinated, the answer can be obtained with just a few mouse clicks on the Ministry of Health website. There is a public database listing the person’s name, location of vaccination, type of vaccine, and dose. Scrolling through, you will see that former President Fernando Lugo filmed Sputnik V for the first time on May 19, and the famous Paraguayan comedian Carlitos Vera received the Covaxin jab.
“This is a tool for citizen supervision,” Lida Sosa, the Deputy Minister of Health, said in an interview. “Some people have checked the list and reported that people who have been vaccinated” are not eligible.
The level of disclosure in Paraguay will be banned in many countries with stricter health privacy laws. However, there are only enough vaccines to vaccinate 7% of the population, and the culture of corruption is deeply rooted-Paraguay ranks second in South America in Transparency International’s 2020 Corruption Perception Index-and there is widespread concern that people are trying to skip the line. The so-called VIP vaccination scandal involved senior government officials and politicians who used their influence to secretly vaccinate, which put Argentina, Peru, Lebanon, Spain and the Philippines in trouble.
In Paraguay, vaccinated people can ask not to be included in the public list, but according to Sousa, no one has requested anonymity so far.
Valentin Sanchez, a 23-year-old Paraguayan software engineer living in the United States, became a celebrity in his hometown due to his efforts to find irregular vaccinations.
Sanchez is writing a program to study the vaccine data of the Ministry of Health in April to satisfy his curiosity about how to vaccinate, when his girlfriend suggested that he also look for vaccine crooks. He compared the names and ID numbers on the vaccination list with the names and ID numbers in public databases of civil servants and politicians and found more than 500 suspicious cases.
Although many of them were physically disabled who were eligible for vaccination, his detectives discovered that Mirta Gusinky, then the governing Colorado Party senator, had received the vaccination out of order. Gusinki resigned after public outcry last month. In the same week, the Ministry of Health stated that after reviewing 518 cases brought to its attention, it will submit 88 unreasonable vaccinations to the prosecutor’s office.
Sanchez said: “Because we have too few vaccines and people don’t trust the process, the only way you can give them some confidence is through this list.” “If they can, people will use their influence to vaccinate. We are in the process. Talk about life and death situations.”
The government has purchased or received 981,400 doses of donations for six different vaccines, and orders for nearly 8 million doses have not yet been completed. The wealthy Paraguayans did not wait. Thousands of people have flown to Miami or elsewhere in the United States for vaccinations. Currently, only health care workers, pregnant women, and people 60 years of age or older are eligible to be vaccinated in Paraguay.
According to data compiled by Bloomberg, the virus has caused more than 10,000 deaths, and the country’s per capita death rate in the past 7 days is the highest in the world, with nearly 122 deaths per 1 million people. It ranks sixth in terms of infection. Since the beginning of the pandemic, the mortality rate has been among the top 30 in the world.
Deputy Health Minister Sousa said that this situation may continue until July because the “tired and fed up” population ignores social distancing and wearing masks and other preventive measures.
Sosa said: “This is reflected in our health system today, where patients are already saturated.” “We are at the most critical stage of the pandemic.”