Any person who sells the free coronavirus vaccines to be given by the government will face legal trouble and possibly jail time.
According to Presidential spokesman Harry Roque, estafa charges could be filed against a person who demands payment from people to get vaccinated with the doses secured by the government.
Roque issued the warning ahead of the arrival of the first batch of COVID-19 vaccines in the country. At least 600,000 doses of Sinovac vaccines donated by China are expected to be delivered to Manila on Sunday, Feb. 28.
“Lahat po ng bakuna, libre (All vaccines are free), ” Roque said during a press conference aired on state television.
“Kapag mayroon pong maningil, ipapahuli po natin sa estafa, ipapakulong natin. Ang pangako ng Presidente, libreng bakuna sa lahat ng Pilipino (If anyone demands payment, we will order the arrest for estafa. We will send them to jail. The President’s promise is free vaccines to all Filipinos),” he said.
Roque said the government’s vaccine rollout could begin by March 1, a day after the arrival of the Sinovac supply.
“All we need is one day and then we will roll out. So, if it arrives on Sunday, if I am not mistaken, then we can rollout on Monday, dahil excited na excited na po ang maraming kababayan natin (because many of our countrymen are really excited),” he said.
The Sinovac vaccines have obtained the emergency use authorization (EUA) from the country’s Food and Drug Administration. Regulators however did not recommend the use of the vaccines for health workers after clinical studies showed varying efficacy rates. The Chinese-made vaccines could instead be used by health persons age 18 to 59.
Roque said the government’s list of priority beneficiaries will still be observed. Under the immunization plan, health workers are first in the vaccination line, followed by seniors, poor and vulnerable citizens, and uniformed personnel and other essential workers.
Given the recommendation made by the FDA on the use of Sinovac vaccines, Roque said the medical frontliners could decide whether or not to take the shot .
“Puwede naman nating ibigay iyan sa mga medical frontliners na talaga namang first priority natin. Wala pong pilitan (We can give them to the medical frontliners who are the first priority. It won’t be mandatory),” he said.
“‘Yung gustong mag-antay nga po ng ibang brand siguro ang concession na maibibigay sa kanila is puwede silang humindi at puwede silang mag-antay without losing their priority kasi iyan naman po ang nakasulat sa EUA; pero masusunod naman po iyong order of priority (To those who want to wait for another brand, maybe the concession that can be given is they can turn it down and wait for the next round without losing their priority since it’s stated under EUA. But the order of priority will still be followed),” he said.