While the Food and Drug Administration (FDA) is yet to authorize the emergency use of Chinese COVID-19 vaccine Sinopharm in the Philippines, some soldiers and cabinet members have already received the vaccine.
According to Presidential Spokesperson Harry Roque, the public should “simply accept” it.
"Huwag niyo naman pong ipagkait sa ating mga sundalo kung nagkaroon sila ng proteksyon," he said in a briefing today, Dec. 28. "Tanggapin na lang po natin na importante na iyong ating kasundaluhan, iyong mga nagbabantay sa ating seguridad ay ligtas na sa COVID nang magampanan nila ang kanilang trabaho.”
“Ang bawal po ay iyong distribution at pagbebenta,” he reiterated.
In a meeting at the Malacañang on Saturday night, Dec. 26, President Rodrigo Duterte revealed offhandedly that soldiers have already been inoculated with the Sinopharm vaccine.
"Kung mag-ano ‘yan sa iyo, SinoPharmaceuticals, iyon nga, sabi ko it has passed the test sa kanila. Hindi naman ‘yan sila mag-ano kung if it is deleterious to their citizens. They would not even attempt to inject one person. Pero marami na. At sabihin ko sa iyo, marami na ang nagpa-injection dito sa Sinopharm," Duterte remarked during his discussion with FDA DIrector-General Eric Domingo.
"Let me tell you, many have already been injected with Sinpharm," the President continued. "Iyon ang... Sumsaskit 'yung ulo ng iba, hindi ako. Halaos lahat ng sundalo natusukan na. I have to be frank and I have to tell the truth. I will not foist a lie. Marami nang nagpatusok and lahat, up to now, wala akong narinig sa—for the select few—not all soldiers, not all soldiers, hindi pa kasi policy, e."
Armed Forces of the Philippines (AFP) spokesperson Maj. Gen. Edgard Arevalo confirmed on Monday that members of the Presidential Security Group (PSG) were the first ones in the AFP to be vaccinated, “owing to the nature of their mission and function,” he explained. “As the unit primarily asked to protect and secure the highest official of the land, the PSG will have to ensure that the President is safe from all threats—including COVID-19.”
Department of the Interior and Local Government (DILG) Secretary Eduardo Año echoed Arevalo's statement in his interview with DZMM earlier today and added that some cabinet members likewise received the vaccine.
"I know some, I know some from the cabinet and the Presidential Security Guards," he said.
However, Año clarified that he would not disclose the recipients' names for confidentiality purposes. "Well, kuwento-kuwento iyan, e. Not unless that person will confirm na 'nagpabakuna na ako.' Only he can give the confirmation," he stated. "Meron nga. I can confirm that. Pero hindi ko puwedeng sabihin ang mga pangalan nila, but there are. Kasi mga frontliners, lalo na siguro sa mga PSG dahil sila ang nagproprotekta sa Pangulo."
The DILG Secretary also said that the vaccine was granted emergency-use authorization or EUA.
"'Yung kasing mga gamot na 'yan, 'yung tinawag nating emergency authorization. So kahit na hindi pa 'yan formally approved, in times of pandemic, puwedeng gamitin 'yan ng mga tinatawag nating health workers, frontliners, iyon 'yung essence noon, e," he continued.
Domingo, meanwhile, said that the Sinopharm vaccine is still expected to apply for emergency authorization (EUA) in January.
"Mas-strict lang kasi walang pang EUA from FDA counterpart, but our panel of vaccine experts will help us in the evaluation," he said in the same meeting with the President on Dec. 26.
Two days later, the FDA released a statement regarding this matter. "Without the proper authorization, there is no guarantee on the safety, quality, and efficacy of said vaccine as the same has not undergone the required technical evaluation by the FDA," said Domingo.
In an interview with DWIZ on Monday, Philippine Army chief Lt. Gen. Cirilito Sobejana stated that the order to provide vaccine to its first recipients came from the President.
"Well, of course, our President is our Commander-in-Chief sa Armed Forces of the Philippines, ano... I should say that it's from the chain of command of the Armed Forces,” he said.