MANILA— Two Catholic bishops were inoculated this week against COVID-19 as the country continued its vaccination drive against the virus, the Catholic Bishops' Conference of the Philippines (CBCP) said Friday.
In a Facebook post, the CBCP shared photos showing Baguio Bishop Victor Bendico during his inoculation and Jaro Archbishop Jose Romeo Lazo after vaccination.
Lazo was inoculated with the AstraZeneca jab on March 15 while Bendico got a vaccine shot of a still undisclosed brand on March 19. Currently, only vaccines by AstraZeneca and Sinovac are in use in the country.
"Last March 15, 2021, His Grace Most Rev. Jose Romeo O. Lazo, D.D., Archbishop of Jaro, got himself vaccinated with the 1st dose of AstraZeneca vaccine, as prescribed by physicians. This is one means of preparing himself for the successive pastoral activities he will be undertaking in the Archdiocese of Jaro," the archdiocese's commission on social communications posted on their Facebook page.
In an interview with Church-run Radio Veritas, Lazo also urged the faithful to get vaccinated.
"I would responsibly recommend ‘yung vaccination ng anti-COVID kasi may mga positive na mararamdaman when you have that pero depende naman ‘yun sa pre-screening nila (there are those that test positive who feel symptoms when they have it but it depends on their pre-screening)," the archbishop said.
"Before you are vaccinated, they have that pre-screening kung mayroon kayong mga allergies at mga medicines na tine-take (if you have allergies and are taking any medicine)."
The Philippines began its inoculation drive this month with 600,000 donated Sinovac jabs from China and 525,600 shots from AstraZeneca through vaccine-sharing platform COVAX.
Government says more batches are coming, as it aims to inoculate 70 million people to achieve herd immunity.
Since the COVID-19 pandemic struck in the Philippines, several prelates have contracted the virus, including Cebu Archbishop Jose Palma, Manila Apostolic Administrator Broderick Pabillo, Caloocan Bishop Emeritus Deogracias Iñiguez and San Fernando Archbishop Florentino Lavarias.
Cardinal Luis Antonio Tagle, currently based in Rome as prefect of the Congregation for the Evangelization of Peoples, also contracted COVID-19 while en route to Manila.
But while these bishops eventually recovered, Archbishop Oscar Cruz, former president of the CBCP, passed away in August last year due to complications from COVID-19.
In a pastoral statement last January, the CBCP urged Filipinos to get vaccinated while urging the government to prioritize medical frontliners and the poor.
"We urge our government and the private organizations who have helped fund the procurement of the COVID-19 vaccines to commit themselves to a single vaccine distribution plan that prioritizes medical frontliners and those who are most at risk for COVID-19," the pastoral statement said.
In the Vatican, both Pope Francis and retired pontiff Benedict XVI got vaccinated early this year followed by other residents and employees in the city, the seat of the Roman Catholic faith.