Malacañang defends AFP having its personnel take unapproved China Covid vaccine

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Malacañang on Monday defended Armed Forces of the Philippines (AFP) over its decision to have some of its personnel inoculated by an unapproved vaccine for the coronavirus disease 2019 (Covid-19) provided by China’s Sinopharm.

In a Palace press briefing, Presidential Spokesperson Harry Roque explained that getting inoculated with a vaccine without approval from the Food and Drug Administration (FDA) of the Philippines is not a violation of Republic Act 9711 or the FDA Act of 2009.

“The law does not prohibit individuals from getting inoculated with vaccines that are not registered. What’s prohibited is the distribution and sale. So, this was only given to soldiers who agreed,” he said in Filipino.

Citing FDA Director General Eric Domingo, isolated inoculation of vaccines is allowed if it is not commercially distributed or sold.

“The FDA said that if the vaccine was not commercially distributed, commercially sold, it won’t be penalized or prohibited,” Roque said in Filipino.

Roque said receiving the Sinopharm vaccine was .a “personal decision” of some military personnel, adding that it is currently among the “most widely-used” vaccine so far.

He also noted that nearly 1 million Chinese people including workers, government officials, and students have received the Sinopharm vaccine. Only a few people experienced symptoms but there were no adverse reactions.

Not purchased by govt

Roque, meanwhile, appealed to the public not to deny members of the military from receiving vaccines early, noting that as front-liners they deserved to receive protection against Covid-19.

“Do not deny the protection needed by our soldiers. Let’s just accept that our military is important, those who guard our security are safe from Covid so they can do their jobs,” he added in Filipino.

He also said the Sinopharm vaccines were not purchased by government, so these “must have been donated” but could not say who gave the vaccines.

In a public address on Saturday night, Duterte said some Filipinos, including military personnel, have been inoculated with the Sinopharm vaccine.

“Almost all soldiers were inoculated with a vaccine. I have to be frank and I have to tell the truth. I will not foist a lie. Many have been inoculated,” he said in Filipino.

Duterte said he wanted members of the military to be among the first to receive the vaccine because he did not want “sickly” military or police force.

“The reason why is that they have to be in good health all the time because they are responsible for the law and order of this country,” he added.

Interior Secretary Eduardo Año also confirmed that some members of the Cabinet, as well as the Presidential Security Group (PSG) have been inoculated against Covid-19.

Senators earlier cast doubt over the reported 50-percent effectivity rate of the Sinopharm vaccine in trials in Brazil. They also noted the Sinopharm vaccine is more expensive than other brands.

Under Republic Act 9711, the manufacture, importation, exportation, sale, offering for sale, distribution, transfer, non-consumer use, promotion, advertising or sponsorship of health products without proper authorization is prohibited. CURRENTPH

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