AFP personnel have received Sinopharm vaccine, Duterte says

AFP personnel have received Sinopharm vaccine, Duterte says
Undated file photo shows Armed Forces of the Philippines personnel.
The STAR / KJ Rosales

MANILA, Philippines — Many people in the Philippines, including some members of the military, have already received the Sinopharm COVID-19 vaccine, President Rodrigo Duterte said, despite regulators here having yet to approve any vaccines for use in the country.

The chief executive made the comment at a meeting at Malacañan on Saturday night as he addressed Food and Drug Administration Director-General Eric Domingo.

"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. At huwag kang tumingin sa akin kay hindi kita kilala," Duterte said according to the official Palace transcript.

(And I tell you, there have been many who have been injected with Sinopharm. And don't look at me because I don't know you.)

The FDA chief said the agency has not caught anyone with the vaccine in three raids conducted in Makati and in Binondo in Manila.

"Let me tell you, many have already been injected with Sinopharm," Duterte said after he asked Domingo if it would be possible to combine the Pfizer vaccine with that of Sinopharm. 

"Iyon ang… Sumasakit ‘yung ulo ng iba, hindi ako. Halos 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 eh," he added. 

Senators have cast fear over the reported 50-percent effectivity rate of the Sinopharm vaccine in trials in Brazil. They also noted the Sinopharm vaccines is more expensive than other brands. 

READ: Senators: 50% Sinovac efficacy unacceptable

The Palace earlier in December said that 1.76 million health workers are first on the list of priority beneficiaries for COVID-19 vaccination. Uniformed personnel like the military are fifth priority in the government plan to vaccinate 24.7 million Filipinos against COVID-19.

Dr. Edsel Salvana, infectious diseases specialist,  said at the meeting that the Department of Health was still unsure if the existing coronavirus vaccines would treat the new variant coming from the United Kingdom, which is reportedly more infectious than the current strain. 

Duterte, who made good on a campaign promise to double the salaries of state law enforcement personnel, reiterated that he would want the Armed Forces of the Philippines and the Philippine National Police to be among the first to receive the coronavirus vaccine. 

"If it’s a policy now to have them injected with… But I'll want them to go first because I do not want a sickly Armed Forces and a sickly police. The reason why is that they have to be in good health all the time because they are responsible for the law and order of this country," he said. 

At the same meeting, the president added that he wants to form a new task force composed of medical experts to deal with the new coronavirus strain which was first reported in the United Kingdom.

The health department's running case tally stands at 469,005 coronavirus cases around the country since December of last year. 

Of that number, 28,883 are active cases, or patients who have neither passed away nor recuperated and are still recovering in hospitals or quarantine facilities. 

— Franco Luna 







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