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Jabs mandatory for AFP

Agence France-Presse

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The Armed Forces of the Philippines (AFP) on Thursday said all its personnel must get inoculated with anti-COVID 19 vaccines, though they will be allowed to choose which brand to receive.

Gen. Cirilito Sobejana, AFP chief, ordered the mandatory vaccination and soldiers can’t choose not to get inoculated, or else they will face sanctions, military spokesman Maj. Edgard Arevalo said.

The order came even as the military has yet to ascertain where its vaccine supply will be coming from, though Arevalo admitted that donated jabs from Chinese pharmaceutical firm Sinovac are the current “default.”

Uniformed personnel who will be choosing other brands will need to pay for their own vaccines and must receive them immediately, Arevalo said.

Those who double as healthcare workers — the priority in the military’s list — will not be allowed to resume such duties until they get vaccinated, he said.

Personnel who are not serving as “frontliners” against the pandemic and have yet to get inoculated will only be allowed to perform duties if they strictly observe health protocols like wearing masks, face shields, and practicing physical distancing.

Arevalo said these rules were given out in line with the AFP’s role not only in helping secure and transport vaccines, but also in the vaccination itself.

“At the end of the day, all AFP personnel and their immediate dependents must be vaccinated,” Arevalo quoted Sobejana as saying.

Earlier, the government announced that it was expecting a donation of 600,000 doses of Sinovac’s vaccine from the Chinese government.

Of that number, 100,000 were earmarked for the Department of National Defense (DND), but the department said on Tuesday that these will go to its civilian bureaus, not the AFP.

Arevalo said there might be an upcoming change to the DND’s pronouncement, as the military has not requested for any part of the remaining 500,000 donated doses.

“We are neither competing for nor rushing our prioritization for these vaccines,” he said.

Arevalo brushed off concerns that there will be a conflict of interest should soldiers receive vaccines donated by China, amid that country’s aggressive actions in the West Philippine Sea.

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