MANILA — "Siya ang mauna."
(She should go first.)
This is how President Rodrigo Duterte responded on Sunday over Vice President Leni Robredo's call for him to be among the first to get inoculated against COVID-19.
Robredo said this would boost public confidence in the vaccination program, after the Philippines received its first official vaccine supply on Sunday from Chinese pharmaceutical firm Sinovac.
Duterte, however, said he was still waiting for his doctor's advice on which vaccine brand to use.
"Siya (Robredo) man ‘yong apurado, siya ang mauna. Ako, I cannot just decide. She’s young, I am not. I have to defer to my doctor,” Duterte, who is 75 years old, said in a press briefing.
(She is the one in a hurry, she should go first.)
The country's Food and Drug Administration does not recommend the Sinovac vaccine for the elderly, although the Chinese maker of the drug said it is effective for seniors.
Duterte said his doctor was considering his possible use of a vaccine by another Chinese
pharmaceutical group. His spokesperson Harry Roque earlier said the President preferred getting COVID-19 jabs from Chinese state firm Sinopharm.
"Ano bang problema nila sa bakuna na talagang magpabakuna man ako? If I do not want to die and get COVID, I should get one. I go around a lot. I meet so many people on any given trip outside," said Duterte.
(What's their problem with the vaccine, when I will really get vaccinated anyway?)
"Bakit dadramahin pa ‘yang sinong mauna, sinong… Ako magpabakuna. Ang problema, ang doktor ko may hinihintay."
(Why should there be drama on who goes first. I will get vaccinated. The problem is my doctor is waiting for something.)
The Philippine vaccination drive will begin with healthcare workers and military personnel.
The Philippines is the last Southeast Asian country to receive initial vaccine supplies, fueling concerns over recovery prospects for the domestic economy that suffered its worst slump on record last year.
The archipelago, which has the second-highest tally of infections and deaths in the region, has suffered lengthy lockdowns, hitting hard a consumption-driven economy.
Despite the vaccine arrival, however, there is little public support for the inoculation drive. One opinion poll showed that less than a third of Filipinos are willing to get vaccinated as they worry about potential side effects.
— With a report from Reuters