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  • Writer's pictureMelo Acuna

Vaccine controversy goes on

Conflicting accounts hound vaccine inoculation among military personnel

MANILA – After President Rodrigo Duterte admitted some in the Armed Forces of the Philippines (AFP) have been given anti-COVID-19 vaccines, the Food and Drug Administration, the Presidential Security Group and the Armed Forces of the Philippines issued statements to clarify the matter.

Halos lahat ng sundalo natusukan na. I have to be frank and I have to tell the truth. I will not foist a lie. Marami nang nagpatusok and lahat. Up to now, wala akong narinig sa - - - for the select few --- not all soldiers, not all soldiers, hindi pa kasi policy eh, President Duterte said.

At midday today, in Baguio City, Presidential Spokesperson Secretary Harry Roque said it is not prohibited by law to have an unauthorized vaccine inoculated into any individual.

Ang bawal po iyong distribution at pagbebenta. So, ito naman po ay itinurok sa mga sundalo na pumayag,” said Secretary Roque. He added nobody bought the vaccines that were injected into the military.

Hindi po ipinagbabawal ang pagturok maski hindi pa rehistrado, huwag lang ibenta, huwag i-distribute. Basahin po natin ang FDA law,” he added.

However, in a separate statement from the Food and Drug Administration (FDA), an agency under the Department of Health (DoH), they reiterated their call on the general public on taking “extreme caution on the purchase and use of vaccines claiming to be safe and effective in preventing COVID-19.”

“As of date the FDA has not issued any Emergency Use Authorization to any vaccine for COVID-19. Without the proper authorization, there is no guarantee on the safety, quality and efficacy of said vaccine as the same has not undergone the required technical evaluation by the FDA,” the statement quoted Director General Eric Domingo.

The statement further said the manufacture, importation, exportation, sale, offering for sale, distribution, transfer, non-consumer use, promotion, advertisement, or sponsorship of any unauthorized vaccine is prohibited and the “commission of such prohibited acts may lead to possible liabilities under the law.”

It said the FDA will coordinate with other agencies and take appropriate regulatory action involving any unauthorized vaccines.

“Rest assured that the FDA is observing utmost diligence in the regulation of vaccines. Vaccines will only be approved if there is reasonable scientific evidence to show that benefit outweighs risks,” Domingo said in the statement. He concluded they will concentrate on making sure that vaccines that pass standards will be made available to the public.

Meanwhile, Brig. General Jesus P. Durante III, commanding officer of the Presidential Security Group said the unit he heads is the primary unit of the AFP mandated to protect the nation’s highest leader.

“With the current pandemic, PSG needs to ensure that they are not themselves threat to the President’s health and safety. As such the PSG administered COVID-19 vaccine to its personnel performing close-in security operations to the President,” General Durante said in a statement.

He added national security imposes the protection of the President as Commander-in-Chief from all forms of threat, especially COVId-19, “in order to preserve the stability of our nation,” as it is their primary duty to ensure the President’s health while serving the Filipino people every day.

“We are in a state of war, a war against COVId-19. War compels us to survive as what we are now doing in this pandemic” as they find means to deliver its mandate as what is expected of them as PSG.

He, however, said they “cannot speak on behalf of the vaccine and its effectiveness.” General Durante said their decision to take the risk is a courageous step that supports their mandate.

“We did it not for our personal agenda but on a greater pursuit that is even way beyond our mission of protecting our President,” he concluded.

Over at Camp Emilio Aguinaldo, Major General Edgard Arevalo, AFP Spokesperson and Commander of the AFP Education, Training, and Doctrine Command said members of the Presidential Security Group (PSG) were the first from the AFP to receive the vaccine due to the nature of their mission and function.

“As the unit primarily tasked to protect and secure the highest official of the land, the PSG will have to ensure that the President is safe from all threats, including COVID-19. Because the safety of the President equates to national well-being, the security posture should necessarily include protecting the Commander-in-Chief from contracting the deadly virus from those he is constantly exposed to like the members of his security detail,” Major General Arevalo said.

However, he added they are not privy with the arrangements how the vaccines were obtained but they have recognized the PSG under Brig. General Durante “has taken a bold step to try the vaccine to protect the President.”

Other concerns from the media addressed to Major General Arevalo remained (Melo M. Acuña)

Presidential Spokesperson Secretary Harry Roque (Screen grab from PTV4 on his briefing at midday today) and Dr. Enrique Domingo (Screen grab from President Duterte's Emergency Meeting with IATF and medical experts over the weekend). (Melo M. Acuna)

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