MANILA (UPDATE) —The health department on Saturday said several Chinese citizens vaccinated for COVID-19 in Pasay City are "permanent residents" there, making them eligible for the government's inoculation program.
Health Undersecretary Maria Rosario Vergeire explained that foreigners living permanently in the country could be vaccinated under the guidelines of the inter-agency task force leading the country's COVID-19 response.
"Nung ating nakapanayam ang ating officials from this local government, sila naman po ang nakapagsaad na itong mga binakunahan are permanent residents, although they are foreign national but they have permanent residency here in the country," Vergeire said in a public briefing.
(When we interviewed the local officials, they said that these people who got vaccinated are permanent residents)
'"Yan naman po ay naisaad na sa isang IATF resolution na sinasabi na kung ikaw ay permanent resident dito, bagamat ikaw ay foreigner, you will not be treated differently from among Filipino nationals," she added.
(That is stated in an IATF resolution, which states that if you are a permanent resident here, even if you are a foreigner, you will not be treated differently from Filipinos)
She added that this move is to prevent the spread of COVID-19 among other nationalities in the Philippines.
"Ibig sabihin dito ka nakatira, kailangan bakunahan ka namin kasi ikaw ay makakasalimuha rin ng mga Pilipino. So ito pong nangyari dito sa Pasay noong isang araw ay nabigyan na po natin ng clarity na ayon sa protocols ng ating gobyerno," she said.
(If you are living here you need to be vaccinated because you also interact with Filipinos. We already clarified the matter regarding the incident.)
The health agency said such is also allowed based on DOH's department memorandum No. 2021-0157 dated Mar. 30, 2021.
"It is further clarified that all Filipinos including overseas Filipino workers, and other groups with legal residency status in the Philippines (i.e. foreign nationals, diplomats) shall be included in the priority group appropriate to their circumstance," it read, noting that this could be enforced as long as vaccines are locally available.
Vergeire signed the document.
The Pasay City local government earlier said that the Chinese nationals were inoculated as they were either senior citizens or persons with comorbidities, among the priority sectors of the Philippines' COVID-19 vaccination program.
Pasay Mayor Emi Calixto-Rubiano has said the foreigners went through the regular vaccination process and were not given special treatment in inoculation sites.
"They submitted their barangay certificates and medical certificates indicating that they were residents of the city and they belonged to either the A2 or A3 groups," Rubiano said.
The inter-agency task force leading the country's COVID-19 response has not come up with protocols for the vaccination of expatriates in the Philippines.
Due to the limited COVID-19 vaccine supplies in the country, the government is following a priority list, which includes the elderly, health-care workers, and people with comorbidities, among others.
As of May 20, the Philippines has received 8.27 million doses of COVID-19 vaccines from AstraZeneca, Pfizer, Sinovac and Gamaleya. Of these jabs, 7.76 million doses have been administered to the public.
Over 1 million Filipinos have already been vaccinated against COVID-19 as of May 25.