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House denies reports that members, staff to get AstraZeneca shots this week

The House of Representatives over the weekend denied reports that Congress had got its hands on AstraZeneca shots to inoculated congressmen and their staff with.

Bataan 2nd District representative Jose Enrique "Joet" Garcia III on Sunday labeled as "fake news" reports of a COVID-19 vaccination at the lower house coming from the World Health Organization's (WHO) COVAX Facility in the next few days or the coming week.

"The House has allocated funds from its own budget for the vaccination of employees and their family members. It is very clear that given the limited global supply of vaccines for COVID-19, the IATF has adopted the prioritization framework and criteria of the Interim National Immunization Technical Advisory Group (NITAG) in allocating first tranches of vaccines against COVID-19 that will arrive in the country," he said.

Under the government's priority list, available vaccines will be first administered to frontline health workers, and then to senior citizens, persons with comorbidities, frontliners in essential sectors, and then the indigent population and other priority groups.

"It is clear to us that government employees can only be vaccinated once the priority groups are inoculated. According to Secretary Carlito Galvez, bulk of the vaccines they ordered are expected to arrive in the country during the second half of the year," said Garcia, who also serves as the head of the House CongVax Program and vice chair of the Health Committee.

Several posts have circulated online, claiming that several congressmen and their staff and family members were going to be inoculated soon, which would be a violation of the conditions set by the World Health Organization under the COVAX Facility if true.

The Philippines is the last country in the ASEAN region to start its vaccination program against COVID-19 after legal vaccines were injected into the public earlier this month.

Vaccines were given to members of the military last year, specifically to the Presidential Security Group, as confirmed by President Rodrigo Duterte himself. The Bureau of Customs (BOC) has maintained that such shipments were absent of the EUA and were therefore smuggled into the country.

The government targets to vaccinate 70 million Filipinos this year, but only 1.1 million doses have arrived in the country so far, all of which have been donations. Those procured have yet to be received. — BM, GMA News