Despite military kin's inclusion, Palace insists priority list for COVID-19 jabs unchanged
President Rodrigo Duterte witnesses the conferment of the Order of Lapu-Lapu to soldiers in his visit to Kuta Heneral Teodulfo Bautista Headquarters in Jolo, Sulu on January 22, 2021.
Presidential photo/Rey Baniquet

Despite military kin's inclusion, Palace insists priority list for COVID-19 jabs unchanged

(Philstar.com) - January 25, 2021 - 6:02pm

MANILA, Philippines — Palace on Monday sought to deny that there had been changes in the administration's list of priority to get the COVID-19 vaccine, after President Rodrigo Duterte said he would now include families of the military among those first to take the jabs. 

The president made the remark in his visit to the Army's 11th Infantry Division headquarters in Jolo, Sulu on January 22, and is seen as another of his showing appreciation to state forces whom he has significantly relied on in his more than four years in office.

"I think there is no change," said presidential spokesperson Harry Roque in mixed English and Filipino in a briefing. "He is only expanding it to include soldiers' families and that's out of recognition for the important role they place in the maintenance of peace and order in society."

Duterte has long touted that health workers, the marginalized and those most vulnerable to the COVID-19 would be prioritized to be vaccinated. But he has repeatedly said too that the armed forces would be part of the list, fifth in place, which as it seems, would now include their kin as well.

In March 2020, the president put to task the military and police to carry out the pandemic-related curbs he ordered, earning his administration the criticism that it is militarizing its response to a public health crisis.

And while government has come up with a list of 24 million prioritized, it is but noteworthy to remember that Duterte's security details had actually been the first in the Philippines to be inoculated as early as September 2020 with the unregulated and smuggled Sinopharm.

Roque did not give out any more details as to how the new move would be carried out and that he would leave it to the coronavirus task force to "operationalize."

He has, however, sought to allay possible concern from the public, saying there would be a surplus of the jabs once it arrives in the country.

"If at all, maybe the list would see an additional two million if there are three members of the family of the men in uniform," he said. "But we are already expecting extras from the vaccines that could arrive by the second or third quarter of the year."

The Philippines has so far signed deals for 30 million doses of the Covavax, 25 million of the highly controversial Sinovac of China, and 2.6 million of AstraZeneca.

At a Senate inquiry on government's vaccination program, officials said the administration's target of 50 to 70 million inoculated in 2021 could be met with the said jabs and through the Covax facility.

But meeting the goal faces uncertainty, with the health department saying vaccine allocation for the country from the global effort has been cut due to lack of funding. — Christian Deiparine

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