Video courtesy of PTV
MANILA (2nd UPDATE) - The mayor of Tacloban City is the first local chief executive to receive a dose of Sinovac's COVID-19 vaccine, government media said Tuesday, despite a policy that the limited jabs should be reserved for health workers.
Mayor Alfred Romualdez received the jab through the national vaccination program, according to a now unavailable tweet of the Presidential Communications Operations Office.
ABS-CBN News could not independently verify if indeed Romualdez was the first local executive to be vaccinated with Coronavac.
Medical frontliners should be the only group to get COVID-19 shots for now, said Palace spokesman Harry Roque said.
Violations of this rule would impact future deliveries from vaccine-sharing COVAX Facility, which said health workers should be prioritized, he said.
"We regret this incident, but I will refer the matter to the DILG (Department of the Interior and Local Government) dahil kinakailangan po talagang imbestigahan ito," Roque said in a press briefing.
(This needs to be investigated.)
Vaccine czar Secretary Carlito Galvez has said President Rodrigo Duterte wants to prioritize healthcare workers and immunize local officials when the country has more vaccine supply.
"Pasensiya na po kayo... Nag-decide na po ang Presidente na unahin muna natin ang healthcare workers at sabihin sa mga mayor na siguro pag marami na tayong vaccine, they can start na," he said.
(We apologize...the President has decided to prioritize healthcare workers and tell mayors that they can start being inoculated when we have more vaccines.)
In a Facebook post, Romualdez, who is a COVID survivor, said only 50 percent of Taclobanons wanted to receive the Sinovac vaccine.
"Because everyone was scared and everyone was waiting for me. So I did it to lead my people out of fear. And I'm glad they responded positively! NEVER say that I did it to save myself before others. I did it to make the people see that it was okay to get the vaccine. I wanted our people to take it for protection, and so that the efforts of the national government will not be in vain," he said.
"I was also being true to myself and to what I said, that everything that hits us, hits me first. So, ako nalang ang gawing guinea pig n'yo. As the Mayor, I am also a frontliner."
A Facebook post by Tacloban City Information Office said the Sinovac jab was administered by a Department of Health nurse deployed at the city health office. The mayor also underwent screening and assessment by acting City Health Officer Dr. Gloria Fabrigas.
DOH: HEALTH WORKERS FIRST
In a statement, the health department reiterated that healthcare workers should be prioritized for the vaccine distribution due to limited supply as of the moment.
The agency also pointed out that the initial batch of doses must be given to healthcare workers "who most need and deserve it."
"The DOH further reiterates the plea of the President and calls on officials in the government to await their turns and follow the approved prioritization framework being employed by the national government," the statement read.
Some 336,656 medical frontliners nationwide have been vaccinated as of March 20, the Department of Health said Monday.
A "number" of non-frontliners have jumped the country's COVID-19 vaccination queue, treatment czar and Health Undersecretary Leopoldo Vega said Monday, without further details.
"We’ve had reports of this. Although we've been saying this can’t be because we have a prioritized vaccination in terms of health workers. This has been observed. The numbers are very insignificant but we do see a number jumping the queue," he told ANC's Headstart.
The Philippines, which began its COVID-19 immunization drive earlier this month, on Monday tallied another record-high number of new COVID-19 infections at 8,019, bringing its total virus cases to 671,792.
The country could reach 10,000 daily new cases by the end of the month, half likely to be recorded in the capital region, if the current daily trend continues, independent research group OCTA earlier said.
Several hospitals in Metro Manila have declared full capacity. They are are projected to reach full capacity by Holy Week if government fails to slow down COVID-19 transmission, OCTA added.