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Roque admits COVID-19 vaccination priority list was breached during Week 1 of rollout

There were some breaches in protocol this first week of the government’s COVID-19 vaccination program, presidential spokesperson Harry Roque admitted Thursday.

Roque was asked whether there was justification for some government officials to get a Sinovac dose even though the protocol of the immunization program specifies that health workers are prioritized in the rollout.

Some of these non-health workers who were administered a Sinovac COVID-19 this week were Undersecretary Jonathan Malaya of the Department of Interior and Local Government, Michael Salalima of MMDA Public Safety Office and Disaster Risk Reduction and Management, and Quezon Representative Dr. Angelina Tan.

“Hindi tayo perfect, may kaunting breaches, but we have learned from these breaches,” Roque said.

“Now, everybody knows that medical frontliners muna ang mauuna,” he added.

Roque said that Malaya and Salalima took the Sinovac COVID-19 vaccine with the intention to boost vaccine confidence among the public, and were prodded by the hospital staff to get their Sinovac jab.

“They were prompted by the officials of the Pasay General Hospital to be vaccinated as well. Sila iyong tinanong, 'Ano Usec. Malaya, Usec. Salalima, gusto ba ninyong magpabakuna na rin para mapataas iyong kumpiyansa ng taumbayan?' Now, the two naman, in good faith, thought that they were doing the nation a service by having themselves vaccinated kasi nga mataas pa iyong tinatawag nating distrust sa bakuna,” Roque said.

“So upon being prodded and being offered and guided by their own desire to increase public confidence in the vaccine ay nagpabakuna po sila,” he added.

Roque then said that Malaya later told him he was unaware that he was jumping the line in the priority list for the government's COVID-19 vaccination program.

“Sa aking pagkakausap kay Usec. Malaya, hindi talaga niya alam na hindi na-approve iyong gusto namin na mga taong gobyerno ang magpapaturok para nga ma-increase po ang vaccine confidence. Kasi nga po iyong desisyon naman ng NITAG [National Immunization Techinical Advisory Group] na huwag nang bakunahan ang iba pang mga tao beyond Secretary Galvez, Secretary Vince Dizon and Chairman Abalos was not really disseminated properly,” Roque said.

Roque was referring to vaccine czar Carlito Galvez, Jr., testing czar Vince Dizon, and Metro Manila Development Authority chair Benhur Abalos, who were also vaccinated during the "symbolic vaccinations" at different hospitals this week.

“Pero ngayon po malinaw na. It was not until the second day or at the end of the first day that a NITAG decision na huwag munang gumamit ng mga influencers kumbaga, was widely disseminated,” Roque added.

As for Tan, Roque said that Tan is a medical doctor but clarified that family members of the medical frontliners are not included in the priority list.

Tan earlier said that she got her Sinovac jab since she was a parent of a health worker in Veterans Memorial Medical Center.

The COVID-19 vaccination program in the country started on March 1, less than 24 hours after 600,000 doses of Sinovac COVID-19 vaccine donated by the Chinese government arrived in the country. — BM, GMA News