Soldiers may take COVID-19 jabs other than Sinovac but pay on their own- AFP

Jamaine Punzalan, ABS CBN News

Posted at Feb 26 2021 01:52 PM

President Rodrigo Duterte witnesses the conferment of the Order of Lapu-Lapu with the rank of Kamagi to 24 soldiers led by Armed Forces of the Philippines (AFP) Chief of Staff Lt. Gen. Cirilito Sobejana prior to his talk to the troops at the Haribon Hangar in Clark Air Base, Pampanga on February 12, 2021. Simeon Celi, Presidential Photo

MANILA — The Armed Forces of the Philippines on Friday said its members could choose other COVID-19 vaccine brands apart from jabs by Beijing-based Sinovac Biotech but would have to pay on their own, as the first batch of the Chinese vaccine is set to arrive this weekend and partly go the the military. 

Of 600,000 COVID-19 shots from Sinovac that will arrive on Sunday, 100,000 will go to the AFP. Health workers are on top of the priority to get the rest, Malacañang said on Thursday. 

"Kung meron po kaming mga kasamahan na hindi po gusto na Sinovac ang ituturok sa kanila na bakuna... ay puwede pong pumili ng ibang brand ng bakuna ang ating mga sundalo," AFP spokesperson Maj. Gen. Edgard Arevalo said in a televised public briefing.

(If we have colleagues who do not want to be injected with the Sinovac vaccine, our soldiers can choose a different brand.)

But AFP personnel have to pay for their own COVID-19 shots if they pick other brands.

"Dahil nga po hindi naman iyon ang laan para sa AFP na kailangan mabakunahan, kailangan po sila magbabayad ng bakuna, brand ng bakuna na gustong maiturok sa kanila," said Arevalo. 

(Because that is not the vaccine allocated to the AFP members who need to be vaccinated, they must pay for the brand that they want to get.)

Sinovac, which will be the country's first coronavirus vaccine, currently lacks commercial use authorization and cannot be sold to the public. 

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. 

"Wala naman tayong nakikitang dahilan kung bakit sila'y hindi dapat bigyan ng bakuna. Kahalintulad nito e para pong mga sundalo natin ay binibigyan natin ng protective equipment sa paglaban," the military official said.

"Hindi po natin puwedeng payagan na maging optional kung gusto niyang magsuot o hindi... This is part of our uniform, part of protecting our people." 

(We do not see any reason why they should not be given a vaccine. This is similar to our distribution of protective equipment to our soldiers for combat. We cannot let this become optional.)

While having the second highest COVID-19 cases in Southeast Asia, the Philippines has lagged behind its regional neighbors is securing vaccines with which it hopes to inoculate 70 million people or two-thirds of the population this year. 

The China-donated Sinovac batch set to arrive on Sunday will be the country's first set of COVID-19 vaccines.

Video courtesy of PTV