MANILA — Malacañang on Thursday cited President Rodrigo Duterte's advance age and position as the country's leader, when asked why he gets to choose which COVID-19 vaccine brand he would take.
This, after his spokesman Harry Roque earlier said Filipinos cannot choose which COVID-19 vaccine the government would give them for free.
Asked why Duterte gets to choose his vaccine while not a health worker, Roque said, "I think the President is a president, and because he is over 70 years old."
There is no government rule yet allowing the elderly to choose their vaccine.
"Kung masusunod talaga, hindi talaga dapat magpabakuna pa si Presidente dahil hindi pa tapos ang mga medical frontliners," Roque said, when asked about this. "Your question really is moot and academic for now."
(If our priority list is followed, the President will not be vaccinated yet because health workers are not yet done.)
Duterte "prefers a Chinese brand that is not yet available in the Philippines as it is still awaiting an EUA (emergency use authorization)," Roque said.
"However, I will ask if he will consider AstraZeneca because in other countries, wala naman (there is no) limitation on the use of AstraZeneca," he said in a televised press briefing.
"But let's wait po for the actual arrival of AstraZeneca kasi (because) right now, everything is speculative," he added.
Duterte, 75, has underlying health issues which make him vulnerable to developing severe symptoms of COVID-19.
Last year, he said his doctor told him he was at risk of developing cancer from Barrett’s esophagus, an inflammation of the tube connecting the mouth to the stomach.
The President, in various instances, also said he struggled with back pains, migraines and Buerger's disease, which is linked to blockages in the blood vessels associated with smoking during his youth.
In other countries, top officials were among the first to get inoculated to boost public confidence in COVID-19 vaccines.
The Philippines will receive later Thursday 487,200 doses of the COVID-19 vaccine from Britain's AstraZeneca. The Food and Drug Administration did not recommend the country's first vaccine supply of 600,000 shots from Beijing-based Sinovac for the elderly.
Health workers are on the priority list of government's inoculation drive. Two officials, however, were inoculated out of protocol, but Roque said they took the shots "in good faith."
Video courtesy of PTV