In Focus Stanley Buenafe Gajete

Military troops, cabinet members get vaccine ahead of FDA approval

Some members of the Philippine Presidential Security Group were the first ones from the Armed Forces of the Philippines (AFP) units who were inoculated with China’s “donated” Sinopharm vaccine, despite that the Food and Drug Administration has yet to approve any COVID-19 vaccine candidate for local use.

     Earlier today, AFP Spokesperson and Marine Major General Edgard Arevalo said that they were not aware of COVID-19 inoculation made to military personnel as they do not have an AFP Leadership-sanctioned vaccination.

     “But we sure heard about as we are thankful to the President when he declared that he will include soldiers in the vaccination priority being front-liners in the fight against the Pandemic,” Arevalo said in a statement.

     In a second released statement, it said that the unit primarily tasked to protect and secure the highest official of the land, and so the PSG will have to ensure that the President is safe from all threats—including COVID-19.

     “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,” AFP said although “they are not privy with the arrangements as to how the vaccines were obtained.”

     Presidential Security Group BGen. Jesus P. Durante III PA defended the activity, saying they need to ensure they are not providing health threats to the President’s health and safety as they are also the primary unit of the Armed Forces of the Philippines.

     “PSG administered COVID19 vaccine to its personnel performing close-in security operations to the President,” BGen. Jesus Durante III said in a statement.

     “As such, PSG exploits all means in order to deliver its mandate as what is highly expected of them by the Filipino people,” he said.

     The Security Group however admitted that they cannot assure the hundred percent effectiveness of the COVID-19 vaccine as the 0decision to take the risk is a courageous step that greatly supports its mandate.”

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

      “Please don’t disallow our soldiers to have protection, Presidential Spokesperson Harry Roque said in a virtual press briefing.

     The country’s Food and Drug Administration warned everyone on the unauthorized use of the COVID-19 vaccine as illegal.

     “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 the said vaccine as the same has not undergone the required technical evaluation by the FDA,” FDA Director-General Eric Domingo said in a statement.

     “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 risk,” Domingo explained.

     Some independent groups also condemned the alleged hidden inoculation on closed-in security members of President Duterte.

     “The VIP vaccination is in violation of Republic Act 9711, which states that the FDA needs to approve all first. Even if it is through donation, they still need permission from the Food and Drug Administration in order to use it,” Bayan Muna Representative Ferdinand Gaite said.

     “Sinopharm vaccine is also not part of any application even for clinical trials. So how it was used?” he explained.

     The Philippines had recorded 470,650 cases of COVID-19 as of Monday, including 9,124 deaths, according to the Health Department. (By: Stanley Buenafe Gajete )

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