Vaccines a must for AFP
MANILA, Philippines—Vaccination is compulsory for members of the Armed Forces of the Philippines (AFP) who might have no choice but receive vaccines developed by Chinese pharmaceutical firm Sinovac Biotech that were expected to arrive soon.
“To get inoculated or not is not an option for the members of the Armed Forces of the Philippines, it is a duty,” AFP spokesperson Maj. Gen. Edgard Arevalo said at an online briefing.
Arevalo said mandating men in uniform to be inoculated was necessary because soldiers play key roles as first responders in hospitals, quarantine checkpoints and in transporting medical supplies and stranded people. Soldiers were expected to have a crucial part in vaccine rollout.
“They need to be vaccinated so they won’t be a burden or add to the problem and so the soldiers won’t complicate the problem,” Arevalo said in Filipino.
Arevalo said AFP personnel could take any vaccine brand but those dealing with COVID-19 patients, like military medical workers, might not have no choice but CoronaVac, the vaccine produced by Sinovac, because there’s no other option.
“As a matter of policy, AFP personnel may opt for vaccine brands at their cost,” said Arevalo. “They can choose, but when it’s time for them to go on duty, like frontliners at checkpoints or rollouts, they can’t do those duties,” he said.
AFP employees “directly performing duties” related to COVID-19 need to be vaccinated as soon as possible “whatever is available, which is Sinovac, for them to be protected in that dangerous setting,” said Arevalo.
In December, however, the Food and Drug Administration (FDA) said that getting inoculated is not mandatory.
“No one can really be forced to get vaccinated,” said FDA Director General Eric Domingo. “You can’t be forced and it can’t be by force. If we get vaccinated, we should completely understand the benefits or adverse effects, side effects or risks,” he said.
In the United States, service members may opt not to be inoculated because the US FDA has yet to issue a full license for vaccines.
The Department of National Defense (DND) will receive 100,000 doses out of 600,000 doses of CoronaVac being donated by China, which is giving at least 10 million doses of coronavirus vaccines to developing countries. The vaccines are expected to arrive this Sunday (Feb. 28).
The DND said CoronaVac would be given to all employees of its civilian bureaus—Office of Civil Defense, Government Arsenal, National Defense College of the Philippines, Philippine Veterans Affairs Office and civilian employees of the AFP.
Arevalo said he was unsure whether the AFP members would benefit from the 600,000 donated Chinese vaccines.
“What we know is there would be a study by the task group of our government to know how may could be spared from that number for uniformed personnel which includes members of the AFP,” Arevalo said.
“The bottomline is it is a duty of military personnel, including civilian human resources, to be vaccinated whether we avail (sic) of the brand that we like or the brand given to us,” he said. “But we must take the vaccine without delay once the rollout has started,” he added.
Those who would refuse to be inoculated could be charged with insubordination under Articles of War 105, which gives commanding officers disciplinary powers, according to Arevalo.
He also dismissed concerns there would be conflict of interest if the AFP received vaccines from China, which is asserting ownership claims over parts of Philippine territory in the West Philippine Sea.
“We in the armed forces we don’t consider that conflict of interest,” said Arevalo. “Vaccines are needed by any Filipino. For the AFP that’s a vaccine which was very important to allow us to help capacitate, equip us,” he said.
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