MANILA — President Rodrigo Duterte's security team has received permission to get COVID-19 jabs from China's Sinopharm, months after some of its members took the vaccine which was then still unauthorized for local use, officials said on Thursday.
The Food and Drug Administration has issued a "compassionate use license" for the Presidential Security Group to take 10,000 Sinopharm jabs, said Palace spokesman Harry Roque.
“Nasa priority naman po ang ating kasundaluhan. At matagal na po nating napag-usapan ‘yan na seguridad at kalusugan ng Presidente ang pinangangalagaan,” he told reporters in an online briefing.
(Soldiers are in the priority list and we have previously discussed that they are taking care of the security and health of the President.)
The security team "complied with all requirements" and its hospital would take "full responsibility for the vaccines and will report utilization and outcomes" to the FDA, said its Director General Eric Domingo.
This authorization is for "future use" and "one-time importation," said the health department.
Asked if the license to use would cover the PSG personnel's family, Roque said, “I suppose so dahil hindi naman 10,000 ang PSG.”
(The PSG is not 10,000-strong.)
Video courtesy of PTV
PSG commander Brig. Gen. Jesus Durante III last year said "a handful" of PSG personnel vaccinated themselves with a drug he did not name. He said inoculations began in September and that the last batch was finished in October.
Duterte had commended his security detail for their "loyalty and courage" in having themselves inoculated, and said they did it for "self-preservation."
"I am prepared to defend my soldiers. I will not allow them, for all of their good intention, to be brutalized in the hearing," Duterte said, referring to a hearing earlier called on the government's vaccination program.
Roque, a lawyer, said the military detail broke no law.
"The president is saluting the PSG for what they did. They risked their lives to protect our president," Roque said.
Defense Secretary Delfin Lorenzana had called the PSG's move "justified" even as he said the vaccines they took, without his knowledge, had been smuggled into the Philippines.
- With a report from Reuters