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Some Cabinet members, troops get vaccines ahead of FDA approval
President Rodrigo Duterte presides over a meeting with the Inter-Agency Task Force on the Emerging Infectious Diseases (IATF-EID) core members prior to his talk to the people at the Malacañang Golf (Malago) Clubhouse in Malacañang Park, Manila on December 16.
Presidential Photo/Ace Morandante

Some Cabinet members, troops get vaccines ahead of FDA approval

(Philstar.com) - December 28, 2020 - 3:14pm

MANILA, Philippines — A number of Cabinet members and soldiers have already been inoculated with coronavirus vaccines, government officials confirmed, despite an earlier statement that medical frontliners would be top priority and despite no vaccines being authorized for use yet.

The confirmation was prompted by President Rodrigo Duterte's comments last Saturday that many people had already received vaccines from Chinese government-run Sinopharm.

"I know some from the Cabinet and the Presidential Security Guards," Interior Secretary Eduardo Año said in mixed Filipino and English in an interview aired over dzMM TeleRadyo. "Until those people confirm it for themselves I cannot say their names."

In a separate statement Monday afternoon, the Armed Forces of the Philippines confirmed that the soldiers who were vaccinated first belonged to the Presidential Security Group. This came after Maj. Gen. Edgard Arevalo, AFP spokesperson, initially stressed at the Laging Handa briefing that there is no vaccination happening within the military. 

Asked if the AFP would be willing to submit to an inquiry by the FDA, Arevalo said: "That's a hypothetical question. Let's find out what happened first." 

READ: Duterte: Select Pinoys received Sinopharm vaccine

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.

As reports of military personnel getting jabs of unauthorized COVID-19 vaccines circulated, the Department of Health maintained in a statement later Monday that all vaccines should undergo the evaluation and regulatory process of the country's regulatory and expert bodies.

"We also reiterate that the use of unregistered products poses harm to a person's health and safety. This is why only vaccines which have been approved and found to be safe should be administered," it said. 

US drugmaker Pfizer has applied for Emergency Use Authorization, which would make vaccines that have yet to be registered available for use. The FDA has not issued any authorizations for any COVID-19 vaccine.

But Palace spokesman Harry Roque saw things differently, saying at a press briefing later Monday: "It's not illegal to be vaccinated with an unregistered vaccine. What is prohibited is the distribution and sale."

"Let's just accept that our military who guards our security is now safe from COVID when they can do their job. I don't think [Duterte authorized the inoculation of soldiers.] It must have been the decision of the commanders and the soldiers," he also said. 

— Franco Luna with a report from Gaea Katreena Cabico 

AFP ARMED FORCES OF THE PHILIPPINES COVID-19 DEPARTMENT OF HEALTH DEPARTMENT OF THE INTERIOR AND LOCAL GOVERNMENT DILG DOH NOVEL CORONAVIRUS
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