Soldiers can refuse Sinovac but they must pay for their preferred vaccine- AFP

Published February 25, 2021, 4:48 PM

by Aaron Recuenco 

The Armed Forces of the Philippines (AFP) has given its personnel the option to choose their own vaccine for the coronavirus disease (COVID-19), provided that they would pay the cost if it is not China’s Sinovac.

Armed Forces of the Philippines (AFP) (MANILA BULLETIN)

The reason, according to AFP spokesperson Maj. Gen. Edgard Arevalo, is that Sinovac is the first batch of the vaccine that was made available for soldiers for free, although only 100,000 doses was allocated for the military.

The 600,000 doses of Sinovac which was donated by China will arrive on Sunday, Feb 28.

 “As a matter of policy, AFP personnel may opt for vaccine brands other than Sinovac which will be available for uniformed personnel.  But it’s going to be at their cost and they should get the vaccine of their choice as soon as possible,” said Arevalo.

The trust and confidence for Sinovac as an effective vaccine for COVID-19 was affected over reports that it is only 50.4 percent effective against the coronavirus infection.

But amid doubts that Sinovac is effective, government officials have been pushing Filipinos to be inoculated. Presidential spokesperson Harry Roque for instance was quoted saying that Filipinos should not be choosy.

On the part of the AFP, Arevalo said they see no problem with Sinovac as a vaccine.

“According to our Chief of Staff (Gen. Cirilito Sobejana), it is better to be 50.4 percent protected than not having protection at all,” said Arevalo. 

But while soldiers were given the option to choose the vaccine brand, Arevalo said that those who do want to be inoculated by the Sinovac are mandated to perform their duty as frontliners.

“They must perform their duties and task but they will have to resort to the traditional health protocol like wearing a face mask, face shield, washing of hands and social distancing while they are not yet vaccinated,” said Arevalo.

He said the AFP chief of staff has instructed all military commanders to monitor the compliance of their men on vaccination.