MANILA — The Armed Forces of the Philippines on Friday dubbed as an act of "heroism" the use of unauthorized COVID-19 vaccine by President Rodrigo Duterte's security team, which has again gained attention as the country's vaccination drive lagged.
The Food and Drug Administration this week said the Presidential Security Team has not yet responded to an inquiry on their use of a coronavirus vaccine from Chinese state firm Sinopharm last year, which lacked authorization then.
"For the nth time, atin pong bibigyang diin na ang pagbabakuna po ng members ng PSG ay hindi pakikipag-unahan, panlalamang sa kaninuman," said AFP spokesperson Maj. Gen. Edgard Arevalo.
"Iyon po ay isang kabayanihan po actually na tutuusin sapagkat ginawa po nila 'yon bilang pagsulong ng kanilang mahalagang misyon na protektahan ang Pangulo ng bansa at Commander in Chief," he said in a televised public briefing.
(For the nth time, we will stress that the vaccination of the PSG is not a race against or deceit of anyone. That is actually an act of heroism because they did their mission to protect the President of the country and Commander in Chief.)
The drug regulator revealed the PSG had yet to respond to the inquiry after columnist Mon Tulfo said he, some "Cabinet-level" officials, a senator, and some members of Duterte's security team took smuggled vaccines.
The PSG earlier this month received a compassionate use license for 10,000 Sinopharm doses.
Other members of the military are set to get 100,000 of the 600,000 China-donated COVID-19 shots that will arrive on Sunday from Beijing-based drug maker Sinovac Biotech.
"Hindi po kami nakikipag-agawan, hindi po kami nakikipag-unahan sa pagbabakunang ito," said Arevalo. "Ang amin po, kung ano ang mailaan at maipagkaloob sa amin, tatanggapin po muna sapagkat mahalaga sa amin na protektado ang ating mga kasamahan."
(We are not competing, racing to be first in this vaccination. For us, we will accept whatever is given and allocated to us because it is important for us to protect our colleagues.)
The AFP will provide security and logistical support to the government's vaccination drive, which was initially expected to start this February.
All members of the 150,000-strong AFP are required to get vaccinated, said Arevalo.
With the second highest COVID-19 cases in Southeast Asia, the Philippines has lagged behind its regional neighbors in securing COVID-19 shots with which its hopes to inoculate 70 million people or two-thirds of its population this year.
Video courtesy of PTV