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Head of Medicines Agency demoted due to vaccine procurement errors

Svens Henkuzens, director of the State Agency for Medicines (ZVA), has been subjected to demotion for a three-year period, according to the Cabinet's decision May 5.

The Minister for Health Daniels Pavļuts initiated disciplinary proceedings (full text in Latvian here) against Henkuzens on April 8 regarding alleged lack of performance, negligent or poor performance in connection with Covid-19 vaccine procurements carried out until January 8 this year. 

The Disciplinary Commission, composed of officials from the Ministry of Justice and Health and the State Chancery, decided that at the meeting of the Cabinet of Ministers on 22 December 2020 Henkuzens provided inaccurate information on the number of additional doses of the Pfizer/BioNTech vaccine available to Latvia.

As a result of this action, the government ordered the Ministry of Health to organize the purchase of up to 100,000 additional doses of vaccine from Pfizer/BioNTech, rather than the purchase of 420,707 vaccine doses, as it would have been possible if the government had received the correct information on the available quantities of vaccines.

The Disciplinary Commission considers that the nature of the infringement and the status of the official who has committed it give rise to the loss of trust in Henkuzens and prevents him from taking the post of head of the institution in future.

At the same time, the commission noted that given Henkuzens' performance assessment and mitigating circumstances, his dismissal would be disproportionate.

Henkuzens will be demoted to a post of deputy head of the Health Inspectorate. Since Henkuzens goes on statutory parental leave on May 6, the execution of the disciplinary sanction will start from the day he returns.

Henkuzens told Latvian Radio he disagrees with the decision and will appeal it in court.

“The investigation commission has not found that this task - to carry out purchases of Covid-19 vaccines - would have been assigned to me or the State Agency of Medicines. The commission has also found that all information was available to the responsible employees of both the Ministry and the National Health Service. In fact, the commission identified these as mitigating circumstances and recommended a slighter punishment than the one advanced by Mr Minister [Daniels Pavļuts], namely a one-year demotion. Actually, I do not agree with the decision and will use my opportunities to defend my rights,” Henkuzen said.

As reported earlier by LSM, initial vaccine procurement misunderstandings have already led to the demotion of State Secretary of the Ministry of Health Daina Mūrmane-Umbraško.

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