MANILA — President Rodrigo Duterte reiterated he would prioritize police officers, military personnel, and poor families in the government’s vaccination rollout against COVID-19.
The announcement meant government could veer away from the health department and the pandemic task force’s initial plan to inoculate health workers first from the virus.
During the President’s visit to Kuta Heneral Teodulfo Bautista Headquarters in Sulu on Friday, he said he was worried that the government would not be able to function properly with infected armed personnel.
"‘Yung lahat sabi ko una ‘yung mga mahirap. Iyon talagang mga mahirap na isang tuka, isang kahig. Unahin ko ‘yon pati ‘yung uniformed service kasi eh kung paano kung magkasakit itong lahat. Paano — how can we function a government with a sick soldier or policeman in your midst," he said.
(Poor people should be prioritized, then the uniformed servicemen because the government function can not function with a sick soldier or policeman.)
In November, the DOH released a list that showed frontline health workers -- both in the public and private sectors -- senior citizens, and poor Filipinos are among those prioritized to be vaccinated against the COVID-19 under the current proposal of the government.
Soldiers and policemen only placed 5th on the DOH’s priority list.
Vaccine czar Sec. Carlito Galvez, in the same month, said that about 35 million people were in the government's vaccination priority list, including frontliners and the elderly.
But the chief executive in November echoed his past statements for prioritizing police and military personnel when the country's vaccination starts, emphasizing that the country needs a healthy armed personnel.
During Friday’s speech, Duterte said he would also talk to Galvez to include soldiers’ families in the vaccination program.
“So ang sunod niyan is — mauna kayo. And if the Secretary Galvez would — sabihin ko sa kanya kasali na ‘yung pamilya ninyo. Magpunta ‘yung mag-inject sa mga kampo, tuturukan pati ‘yung mga anak ninyo,” Duterte said.
“So ito lahat libre ito . . . Libre ‘to. So that you would depend . . . Para hindi kayo mag-worry kung nandiyan na na ano kayang mangyari. Eh ano ito — this is a very vicious microbe,” he added.
(You will be the first. And I will tell Sec. Galvez to include your family, your children, and I will ask those people who would administer the vaccine to go directly to the camps. This will be free so you won’t worry if something happens to you because of COVID-19.)
Late last year, Duterte, in a televised speech, said that some members of the Armed Forces of the Philippines (AFP) have been vaccinated by Sinopharm’s COVID-19 vaccine.
Interior Secretary Eduardo Año and the military later confirmed that some members of the Presidential Security Group were among those inoculated, causing public outcry over unauthorized vaccination and allegations of “favoritism.”