Government officials have a “moral obligation” to refrain from receiving coronavirus vaccines ahead of medical frontliners, vaccine czar Carlito Galvez Jr., said Saturday.
In a statement, Galvez urged officials to respect the vaccine priority list amid reports that non-health workers were recently inoculated with Covid-19 shots intended for frontliners.
“We remind our countrymen, especially our co-workers in government, that in these trying times, it is our moral obligation to ensure that our healthcare system is protected and will be able to withstand possible spikes in Covid-19 cases,” Galvez said.
He noted that President Rodrigo Duterte has directed officials to observe the priority framework issued by the pandemic task force to ensure that those who are most at risk to virus exposure and death would be protected from the illness, due to limited vaccine supply and to preserve the country’s healthcare system.
Galvez also underscored that non-compliance to the vaccination list could jeopardize the succeeding deliveries of the 44 million vaccine doses from COVAX, a global vaccine-sharing pool which aims to ensure vaccine access of middle- and low-income countries.
“Hence, all vaccine supplies that we have received and will be delivered this month are specifically allocated to all healthcare workers from all regions across the country,” he said.
“Initial deliveries for April would also follow this allocation until we have completely inoculated nearly two million individuals under this sector,” Galvez added.
The succeeding sectors in the priority list, including those who would take part in boosting public trust on the vaccines, would receive the supplies for the second and third quarters, he said.
“By respecting and following the priority framework, we will be able to reduce Covid-19 morbidity and mortality, protect the populations most at-risk to the disease, slow down the transmission rate, and minimize social and economic disruptions. We need to preserve our healthcare institution,” Galvez added.
The World Health Organization (WHO) earlier warned the government that vaccine delivery from COVAX might be impeded if the Philippines “cannot demonstrate that we are following this prioritization.”
“Unfortunately, the COVAX may have to consider other options where the impact of the vaccine rollout will be more useful and practical and would contribute to saving more lives,” said Dr. Rabindra Abeyasinghe, WHO representative to the Philippines.
The government is expected to launch a probe on the “unauthorized” inoculation of government officials, namely Interior Undersecretary Jonathan Malaya, Metropolitan Manila Development Authority (MMDA) Chief of Staff Michael Salalima, Quezon Rep. Angelina “Helen” Tan and Pasay Vice Mayor Boyet del Rosario.
They supposedly received Sinovac’s vaccines even if they are not part of the vaccine program’s priority group. The shots administered to them, however, did not come from COVAX Facility and were part of the 600,000 donated doses of Beijing.
Galvez, along with testing czar Secretary Vince Dizon, and MMDA chair Benhur Abalos, were also vaccinated although they were non-health workers. The Palace justified this by saying President Duterte himself ordered the vaccination of the three officials in a bid to boost vaccine confidence.
Malaya, who was vaccinated at the Pasay City General Hospital on Tuesday, said in a separate television interview that he and the others are entitled to the vaccine since they are also considered frontliners.
Over 487,000 doses of AstraZeneca vaccines, hailed by Abeyasinghe as “one of the largest consignments” in the initial batch of shipment to developing nations, arrived in the country on Thursday.
The vaccines are part of the promised 525, 600 AstraZeneca doses from the COVAX facility.
The Philippines is also expecting 3.5 million shots manufactured by the firm through the global initiative.