MANILA — Almost two months after the start of the vaccine rollout in the Philippines, Health Secretary Francisco Duque III was finally vaccinated against COVID-19 alongside health workers at the Department of Health gymnasium on Friday.
A PTV report showed Duque receiving a Sinovac jab after undergoing the usual screening process, which involves a blood pressure check and the disclosure of comorbidities and medication.
During a virtual briefing, Health Undersecretary Maria Rosario Vergeire said Duque had long planned to be vaccinated since he is a senior citizen, which is among those prioritized for vaccination.
However, she said the vaccination was put off because of the secretary's hectic schedule.
“Inayos na namin ng team niya na talagang Friday will be the day for him to get vaccinated. Para po sa rest of the DOH team we follow the prioritization framework,” Vergeire said.
(His team arranged for him to be vaccinated on Friday. For the rest of the DOH team, we will follow the prioritization framework.)
The official said the DOH had started vaccinating its priority sectors 2 weeks ago.
Currently, only health workers, those over 60 years old and persons with comorbidities are being vaccinated in the Philippines due to the limited supply of vaccines. Only Sinovac and AstraZeneca vaccines are available in the country.
In a statement, Duque reiterated that COVID-19 vaccines are safe and effective.
“As I receive my dose of the COVID-19 vaccine today, I invite everyone to do the same, and choose to be protected. Let us all take part in protecting public health, and let us be in unison in spreading one message: that vaccines are safe, and vaccines are effective,” he was quoted saying.
Duque assured the public that adverse events following immunization are closely monitored.
“The government also set up an indemnification fund to ensure the welfare of patients who will experience serious adverse events,” he said.
The Food and Drug Administration earlier Friday said that out of the almost half a million injected with Sinovac’s CoronaVac vaccine, only 1.41% or more than 7,000 experienced adverse events following immunization (AEFI). For the half a million Filipinos who received AstraZeneca vaccines, more than 24,000 or 2.45% reported AEFIs. AEFIs undergo assessment to check if they are related to vaccination.
Of the 3.5 million COVID-19 vaccines in the Philippines, 1.6 million have been administered to Filipinos. This is still far from the target of 70 million people vaccinated by the end of the year to reach herd immunity.