Palace checking if Duterte can legally take Sinopharm vaccine
President Duterte is escorted by the Presidential Security Group during his arrival at the Batasang Pambansa for his State of the Nation Address on July 27, 2020. The AFP has confirmed that members of the PSG have been given vaccines ‘to ensure that the President is safe from all threats, including COVID-19.’
Presidential photo

Palace checking if Duterte can legally take Sinopharm vaccine

Alexis Romero (Philstar.com) - March 1, 2021 - 6:50pm

MANILA, Philippines — Malacañang's legal team is studying whether President Rodrigo Duterte can get inoculated with COVID-19 vaccines developed by Chinese firm Sinopharm, which has secured a license for compassionate use.

The Food and Drug Administration allowed last month the compassionate use of 10,000 doses of Sinopharm jabs for members of the Presidential Security Group, the unit that protects the president and his family.

The approval came after it was revealed that some of Duterte's security aides were given COVID-19 shots as early as September last year even if the FDA had not approved any vaccine for local use. Officials have defended the use of unauthorized jabs, saying PSG members have to secure Duterte so they should not pose threats to his health.

Cabinet officials and at least one senator were also given the Sinopharm vaccines, according to columnist and Special Envoy to China Mon Tulfo, who has admitted to taking vaccines smuggled into the country.

RELATED: FDA, DOH to probe Mon Tulfo's use of smuggled Sinopharm jabs
Asked whether Duterte, who reportedly prefers Sinopharm vaccines, is covered by the compassionate use license, presidential spokesman Harry Roque said the matter is still being studied.

"The legal department is still studying the issue, (whether) the president as commander-in-chief of the armed forces can have Sinopharm under compassionate use," Roque said at a press briefing at the Philippine General Hospital in Manila on Monday.

"The study has no result yet and we will announce it once the results are available," he added.

Roque claimed Sinopharm has applied for an emergency use authorization (EUA) but the FDA could not confirm this.

Duterte to heed doctor's advice

Speaking to reporters at the Villamor Airbase last Sunday, Duterte said he would follow his doctor's advice on what COVID-19 vaccine to get.

"We (people who are in their 70's)  have to be careful. I have my own doctor. She thinks that another brand, I will not mention it, I will just wait for it. She is waiting for it," the President said during his first press conference since the COVID-19 was declared a pandemic.

"In the matter of getting the vaccine, it is to my advantage. It is to my self-interest that I should get one. No doubt about it. As to what brand, that's the problem because it is left to the sound discretion of my doctor," he added.

Roque said the president would inform the public if he experiences side effects after getting vaccinated.

"The President has promised that once he gets inoculated, it (would) be held publicly... Of course, we will inform you about the side effects if any on the president. But since he has not yet received a vaccine, that is moot and academic," the Palace spokesman said.

"Let me clarify. What is stated in the constitution is the president has the obligation to make public his medical condition only if he has a serious illness," he added.

Sinovac not mandatory

Duterte said health workers who do not want Sinovac vaccines can wait for the AstraZeneca shots that are expected to be delivered this month.

"They (health workers) have a choice, it’s either...AstraZeneca or the Sinovac. If they do not want Sinovac, they have to wait... I was assured that it would be coming within the next few days," the president said.

Duterte said people who do not want to receive vaccines cannot be forced to do so.

"Now, for those who do not want to be vaccinated, that's OK with me. I have no problem. You do not want vaccines? OK, that’s your choice," he added.

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