COVID-19 vaccine shots were administered to some soldiers on a purely voluntary basis, Malacañang said Monday as it pointed out their need to be protected from the virus that has killed over 9,000 people in the Philippines.
“Huwag n’yo naman pong ipagkait sa ating mga sundalo kung nagkaroon sila ng proteksyon,” presidential spokesperson Harry Roque said at a news conference.
“Tanggapin na lang po natin na importante na iyong ating kasundaluhan, yung mga nagbabantay sa ating seguridad, ay ligtas na sa COVID nang magampan nila ang kanilang trabaho.”
Roque said amid speculation following President Rodrigo Duterte’s announcement last Saturday that some members of the military already received the vaccine developed by Chinese firm Sinopharm.
“This must have been made by the soldiers and probably by the commanders kasi hindi naman po ‘yan makakarating sa sundalo kung walang go-signal ng mga commanders and I understand naman this is voluntary, wala pong sapilitan,” he said.
“It was not mandatory; kung sino lang ‘yung gusto.”
Sinopharm’s vaccine has yet to receive emergency use authorization from the Philippines’ Food and Drug Administration but Roque said the law does not prohibit vaccinations using an unregistered product.
“Hindi po ipinagbabawal ang pagturok maski hindi rehistrado, huwag lang ibenta, huwag lang i-distribute,” he said.
Duterte earlier said that he wants the police and the military to be among the first to receive a COVID-19 vaccine if it becomes available, saying he needs them to be healthy.
Last week, the President praised soldiers for their efforts to curb the spread of COVID-19. He said the entire nation witnessed how the military “fought proudly at the frontlines alongside our valiant health workers.”
In a radio interview on Monday, Philippine Army chief Lieutenant General Cirilito Sobejana said those who got vaccinated include officials and non-commissioned officers. Interior Secretary Eduardo Año also disclosed that some soldiers, including members of the Presidential Security Group, had been vaccinated.
Roque could not confirm the statements of Sobejana and Año, saying he could only repeat what Duterte had said. —KBK, GMA News