"For the benefit of the ethically challenged, here are a few things wrong about what they did."
There are so many things wrong about the secret, early inoculation of members of the President’s security team and unnamed Cabinet officials against COVID-19 that one hardly knows where to begin.
In defending this wayward “vaccination program,” which shot doses of an unauthorized vaccine into the arms of a coterie of presumably important individuals, its apologists and defenders insist that no illegal act was committed, but in the process expose themselves to be bereft of any ethical or moral backbone.
By the President’s own admission to his chief of the Food and Drug Administration (FDA), we learned earlier this week that some members of his security team had received a COVID-19 vaccine from the Chinese company Sinopharm--becoming the first people in the country to be immunized against COVID-19—without the necessary regulatory approval. The Armed Forces of the Philippines has since confirmed that members of the Presidential Security Group (PSG) had agreed to be inoculated using the unauthorized vaccine, and cited the importance of the President’s health as a justification.
The presidential spokesman, Harry Roque, went one step further, arguing that the vaccination was not illegal because no government funds were spent as the vaccines were a donation. He added that the law prohibiting public officials and workers from soliciting and accepting gifts of anything of monetary value was “not absolute.”
Senate President Vicente Sotto III also took the legalistic route.
“I don’t think there’s anything wrong about that. There is no law that says you cannot take any medicine or vaccine that FDA has not approved,” Sotto said in a message to reporters when sought for comment.
“Last [I] recall, there is even no law vs suicide. So what’s the fuss? I don’t think [the government] paid for those vaccines they used. I’m sure they were given and administered for free,” he added.
Roque tried to put a lid on the issue.
“It was not paid for so it’s a donation, but that’s all that I know,” he said. “Let’s not take it the wrong way because that will result in the President’s good health and let’s close the issue at that.”
Not so fast, Mr. Spokesman.
For the record—and for the benefit of the ethically challenged—here are a few things wrong about what they did.
1) The government has a stated policy that health care workers and at-risk individuals such as the elderly and the poor will be given priority access to COVID-19 vaccines. This secret program contravenes that policy and allows favored individuals to jump the line, albeit with an untested vaccine.
2) If the objective of the vaccination of PSG members was to protect the health of the President, why was he not given the unauthorized vaccine as well? Or has the President also received a dose?
3) While professing the virtues of transparency, the government has been as transparent as a brick wall when it comes to this issue. Who authorized the vaccinations? How many doses were involved? How were the vaccines acquired? Have they been adequately tested and found to be safe? We know for a fact that the FDA has not approved any vaccines for use in the Philippines, so what do we really know about the ones they used? And who are the Cabinet members who jumped the vaccination line? We also hear of high-profile politicians who have been vaccinated, some of whom have been named. Why have we not heard them confirm or deny these reports?
4) The use of an unauthorized and untested vaccine is not only unsafe, it undercuts the authority of the FDA and the Department of Health. This, in turn, can hurt the credibility of the government’s vaccination campaign.
The Palace spokesman should know that “That’s all I know” and “Let’s close the issue at that” just doesn’t cut it, no matter how much he wishes everything would get back on the q.t. and stay very hush hush.