‘Some’ soldiers already received COVID-19 vaccine shots — Army Chief

Published December 28, 2020, 2:00 PM

by Martin Sadongdong

While the government has yet to approve the use of any COVID-19 vaccine, “some” members of the Armed Forces of the Philippines (AFP), particularly from the Presidential Security Group (PSG), apparently have been vaccinated against the viral disease, the country’s top Philippine Army (PA) official confirmed Monday.

(Photo by Robyn Beck / AFP / FILE PHOTO / MANILA BULLETIN)

Lieutenant General Cirilito Sobejana, Army commanding general, said he personally knew some “officials and non-commissioned officers” who received the vaccine shots. 

The Army Chief’s revelation came in the wake of President Duterte’s pronouncement last Saturday that “many” Filipinos have already received China’s COVID-19 vaccine candidate, Sinopharm.

Sobejana refused to identify them or the unit to which they belong.

“I know of some but I could not just disclose the unit. Personally, I know mayroon nang nabakunahan sa hanay po ng Armed Forces (some of the personnel of the Armed Forces have already been vaccinated),” Sobejana said in a radio interview over DWIZ.

“Hindi ko maibigay ang accurate number but I confirm that some of our members ay nabakunahan. Hindi naman libo. Considering the population of our Armed Forces, hindi ganoon karami (I could not give the accurate number but I confirm that some of our members were vaccinated. It did not reach thousands. Considering the population of the Armed Forces, it’s not that many),” he added.

But Major General Edgard Arevalo, AFP spokesperson, bared that they found out it was members of the Presidential Security Group (PSG) from the AFP who were the first ones given by a COVID-19 vaccine shot.

“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,” he said.

“Because the safety of the President equates to national well-being, that 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,” he added.

It was not clear whether the soldiers who had been reportedly vaccinated are or have been COVID-19 patients but Sobejana said they were already “doing okay” and no negative effects were observed on them so far.

‘Unaware’

The AFP leadership denied that there is an AFP-sanctioned COVID-19 vaccination among its personnel as it distanced itself from Sobejana’s remarks.

“The AFP is not aware of COVID-19 inoculation made to military personnel. We do not have an AFP leadership-sanctioned vaccination,” said Major General Edgard Arevalo, AFP spokesperson.

For his part, Sobejana said the vaccination of the soldiers was a decision made by the military higher-ups, even attributing it to President Duterte.

“Our President is our Commander in Chief in the AFP. I should say that it is from the chain of command of the Armed Forces of the Philippines,” he said.

The Army Chief’s revelation came in the wake of President Duterte’s pronouncement last Saturday that “many” Filipinos have already received China’s COVID-19 vaccine candidate, Sinopharm.

However, Sobejana did not particularly identify whether it was the Sinopharm vaccine that was given to the soldiers.

“Hindi ko alam anong klaseng vaccine but I know mayroon ng vaccine na naibigay (I don’t know what kind of vaccine but I know that a vaccine was already distributed),” he said.

Justify

To date, the Food and Drug Administration (FDA) has not yet approved the use of any COVID-19 vaccine in the country.

Under Section 21 of Republic Act No. 3720 or the amended Food, Drug and Cosmetic Act, it states that any new drug “should have an authorization from the FDA based on an application containing full reports of investigations.”

This, the law states, is to show “whether or not such drug is safe, efficacious and of good quality for use based on clinical studies, prior to manufacture, sale, importation, exportation, distribution or transfer thereof.”

Secretary Carlito Galvez Jr., chief implementer of the National Task Force (NTF) Against COVID-19 and the designated vaccine czar, earlier warned that only the national government is duly authorized to procure and administer COVID-19 vaccines.

Galvez, a former AFP Chief, said any other offers of guaranteed access to any of the vaccines “is not only illegal but also life-threatening.”

Apparently setting the laws aside, Sobejana justified the decision of the soldiers to be vaccinated, saying they “did not hesitate” to do it so they can better protect themselves and serve the country.

“Mayroon naman po sigurong paliwanag ‘yung mga doctor na nagbigay ng bakuna sa kanila at hindi naman po sila nag-alinlangan (Maybe the doctors who gave the soldiers the vaccine have a good explanation as to why they did it, and they [soldiers] did not hesitate),” he said.

“We are optimistic na itong vaccine na naibigay sa mga sundalo ay magiging epektibo para lalo tayong makapagbigay serbisyo sa ating mga kababayan (We are optimistic that the vaccine given to our soldiers will be effective so we could better serve our countrymen,” he added.

 
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