MADRID (AP) — Spain’s Defense Ministry is launching an internal inquiry to find out if the military top brass dodged coronavirus vaccine protocols by receiving a jab before their turn.
El Confidencial Digital, an online news site, first reported that Chief of Staff Gen. Miguel Ángel Villarroya and several other high-ranking officers in Spain’s Armed Forces had recently received the first dose of the COVID-19 vaccine.
In Spain, top government and other officials have not been granted preferential access to the vaccine — unlike other European countries where they were among the first to get the jab, to encourage members of the public to follow suit.
Nursing home residents and staff, as well as first-line health workers, are currently receiving jabs as priority groups in the national vaccination plan. The rollout is suffering delays due to a shortage of deliveries by Pfizer-BioNTech, currently the main supplier of vaccines.
The Health Ministry announced this week that the next group will be those above 80 years old.
Defense Minister Margarita Robles said Friday that the Armed Forces had their own vaccination plan but that she nevertheless had requested a report from Gen. Villarroya, who is 63, to clarify the issue.
The questions follow several cases of queue-jumping by politicians or people with connections that have come to light in recent weeks, drawing widespread criticism and leading to high-profile dismissals.
In one of the cases, the regional health chief of the south-eastern Murcia region lost his job this week after he and other members of his department were found to have received the first vaccine jab.
Meanwhile, the health chief for Ceuta, a Spanish outpost in northern Africa, refused to resign saying that fieldwork often exposed him to contagion. Javier Guerrero, who is a physician himself and has diabetes, said at a press conference Thursday that he accepted getting the jab because his staff asked him to, even though he doesn’t like vaccines.
Pressure from the public has so far led to resignations or dismissals of several local mayors and councilors, as well as some hospital directors.
At the San Carlos Clinic Hospital in Madrid, retired health workers and family members were asked to show up for a vaccine so as not to waste soon-to-expire doses.