Medical frontliners: No one is above the law in COVID-19 vaccination

By CNN Philippines Staff

Medical frontliners stress they should be highly prioritized in the national COVID-19 vaccination program amid reports that some soldiers and Presidential Security Group (PSG) personnel have been immunized with unregistered vaccine.

Filipino Nurses United Secretary-General Jocelyn Andamo pointed out to CNN Philippines’ Rico Hizon on Tuesday that health workers are more prone to contract COVID-19 due to the nature of their work.

“It is sad to know that some people were vaccinated already, yet they have been telling before that medical frontliners should be the first to receive the vaccine,” Andamo lamented.

Alliance of Health Workers National President Robert Mendoza insisted in the same interview that the COVID-19 vaccine that will be administered to the people must pass the Philippine Food and Drug Administration regulations and Phase 3 clinical trials, registered by the agency, safe, and effective.

The Healthcare Professionals Alliance Against COVID-19, an alliance of more than 160 health professionals groups in the country, strongly discouraged the use of unregistered COVID-19 vaccines and called for transparency in the vaccines’ distribution and handling once it gained the nod of the Philippine FDA.

“Because all vaccines against COVID-19 are in various stages of clinical trials and are not yet approved for commercial use, all information about use and their actual effects should be properly documented and monitored,” the alliance said in a statement.

Mendoza also denounced the early vaccination of some soldiers and PSG personnel, since it can break the trust of the people in complying with the government’s COVID-19 vaccination guidelines.

“This shows the government’s utter disregard of related protocols, laws, and regulatory processes. They should be the first ones to follow the law because they are government workers,” Mendoza said. “There is no exemption to the rule on who gets to be vaccinated first.”

The Coalition for People’s Right to Health lamented the “politicization of the health process” in the early vaccination of some soldiers as the people’s right to health were undermined by vested interests.

“Wider testing and vaccination must be for the good of all, not VIPs and cronies. These incidents betray the reality that health leaders have not been in charge of what is truly a public health crisis,” the coalition said in a statement.

Filipino Nurses United and Alliance of Health Workers also called out the national government for the early immunization of some soldiers and PSG personnel and reiterated their promise to get them vaccinated first.

“We are the ones fighting the unseen virus as we deal with infected patients everyday. We should be the first in line to be inoculated with a COVID-19 vaccine. Vaccination guidelines must be strictly followed,” Andamo stated.

“If the PSG (personnel) are frontliners, so are we. We should be vaccinated simultaneously, especially us that we are fighting an unseen enemy,” Mendoza stressed.

Top military officials and President Rodrigo Duterte himself confirmed the early vaccination of some soldiers and PSG members with the China-made Sinopharm vaccine, as a way of protecting the 75-year old head-of-state from COVID-19.

The Philippine FDA is now investigating the vaccination as the agency has not yet approved any COVID-19 vaccine in the country. Under the FDA Act, those who import, sell, or distribute any unregistered health product may face the penalty of imprisonment or fines. The law does not penalize the person who was injected with the unregistered vaccines, but charges await those who import, sell, distribute, and dispense the drugs.

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