The priority list seems to have changed for the Philippine government’s COVID-19 vaccination plan as President Rodrigo Duterte has taken himself off of the priority list.
In what seems to be a supposed re-statement of the vaccine plan, Duterte reiterated that health care workers will be first in line for the vaccine—despite the fact that the Presidential Security Group and possibly other high-ranking military officials have already taken a vaccine that was reportedly smuggled into the country.
During a press briefing, Duterte said after frontline health workers, teachers and social workers will come next.
After social workers are other government workers and essential workers outside of the health, education, and social welfare sectors who often come in direct contact with people.
Socio-demographic groups will come last, like OFWs, the rest of the working class, and then the rest of the Filipino people.
Soldiers will also be included in the list, but the poor will come first according to Duterte.
This list, however, has been disputed by netizens and raised the possibility that Duterte has already been inoculated despite claims by cabinet secretaries—including presidential spokesperson Harry Roque—that he hasn’t.
Keeping up appearances — Duterte said it himself, he’s been vaccinated already
Handa daw mamatay para sa bayan “kunyare”…. Lagi naman nya inuuna sarili nya #NOTOVIPVACCINATION
— MrsHan (@MoxieLi) January 11, 2021
A statement from Philippine Army spokesperson Demy Zagala confirms this, according to Karapatan’s public information officer Philip Jamilla.
In case anyone missed it, Philippine Army spokesman Demy Zagala already told CNN Philippines last December 28, 2020 that soldiers’ vaccination “occurred by the direction of the chain of command, headed by our commander-in-chief,” who is clearly none other than Rodrigo Duterte.
— Philip Jamilla (@pmjamilla) January 5, 2021
Duterte’s stern warning to the rest of the Armed Forces of the Philippines and anyone else looking to investigate his close-in security group during the first week of January is also a telling sign.
Last night’s PDut PA
Based on reaction of Duterte re illegal vaccine of PSG, one can’t help to suspect that he was the one who gave the order and that he, too, was already vaccinated.
The big question now is, will the Senate and DOJ push through with their plan investigation?
— J R aka Dayunior (@datumx11) January 4, 2021
Would not be surprised if the Palace soon announces that Duterte, cabinet, top officials of the House, Senate, and the SC, and their entire families have already been vaccinated with Sinovac since September.
That’s the SOP of dictatorships.
— Tonyo Cruz (@tonyocruz) December 30, 2020
One netizen has even immortalized Duterte’s single question that may have sealed off any alibis of him not being prioritized over everyone else: former senator Sonny Trillanes IV.
Si duterte mismo ang nauna nagpa-vaccine, hindi lang mga cabinet secretaries and legislators. Wala talagang malasakit itong mga 'to sa mga pinamumunuan nila. pic.twitter.com/wvD3fr64iO
— Sonny Trillanes IV (@TrillanesSonny) December 29, 2020
Roque, however, insisted that it’s not a far-fetched thought for Duterte to be vaccinated first—or at least in public—to “reassure the public” that Sinovac’s CoronaVax is safe.
Assurance from Duterte? ‘No, thank you’ said netizens
On Wednesday, January 13, Duterte openly mocked experts and critics saying Sinovac isn’t the best pharmaceutical company to rely on for COVID-19 vaccine, saying “scientists all studied the same microbes.”
The Philippine Daily Inquirer would lead netizens in railing the president, as Sinovac’s vaccine had the lowest efficacy of all available COVID-19 vaccines.
The claim: Pres. Duterte on Wednesday claimed that all vaccines have the same potency because scientists "all studied the same microbes."
The facts: Vaccine efficacy
— Inquirer (@inquirerdotnet) January 14, 2021
And netizens would get onboard.
Some would even give him a brief lecture on not just microbiology but also word choice.
Microbiologists are offended.
Listen pasista, representative microbes are considered constant when testing COVID-19 vaccines because the pathogen has already been identified. It would be dumb not to do so. https://t.co/P2DbABIdCn
— ️️ ️️️️️️️️️ ️️aleks T^T ️️ ️️️️️️️️️ ️️ (@allegoricaleks) January 14, 2021
Finally, human rights advocate Frank Baraan IV would point out the obvious: Sinovac’s CoronaVax is still more expensive than the world-leading Pfizer BioNTech vaccine.
Pfizer vaccine costs only P2,379 for 2 doses w/ 95% efficacy rate, & roughly 34,678,436 Filipinos may get shots.
Sinovac vaccine costs P3,629.50 for 2 doses w/ just 50.4 efficacy rate, & only 22,730,403 Filipinos may bemefit from its purchase.
GRABE ANG PAGKAPUÑETA.
— Francis Baraan IV (@MrFrankBaraan) January 14, 2021
This, even as one netizen would diss the numbers and claim the government bought it for a lower-than-market price.
The problem, of course, is that regardless of how much the government saved on CoronaVax—or any other vaccine for that matter—the fact that the government has placed serious trust in the questionable vaccine is what is putting off Filipinos from getting it in the first place.