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TURNING POINT: A Vaccine of Woe, Despair and Anger

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NAAWAN, Misamis Oriental (MindaNews / 30 Dec) – How come a COVID-19 vaccine has entered the country without passing the Bureau of Customs (BOC) and is already in use in the country without the approval of the Food and Drug Administration (FDA)? The BOC and FDA’s plate is full. The DOJ ought to come in to uncover the pandemic spawned anomaly. The truth is not really that difficult to pursue if all concerned will honestly do their mandated duties without fear and trepidation.

They simply have to follow the lead given by no less than the President of the Republic. President Rodrigo Duterte claimed that many Filipinos, including some from the military, have already received a COVID-19 vaccine from Chinese pharmaceutical company Sinopharm, without the approval of the FDA.

Without mincing words the President told FDA Director General Eric Domingo, during the Cabinet meeting last Saturday: “Sabihin ko sa iyo, marami na ang nagpa-injection dito sa Sinopharm. Halos lahat ng sundalo natusukan na.”

“I have to be frank and I have to tell the truth. I will not foist a lie. Marami nang nagpatusok and lahat,” the President added.

In the meeting, President Duterte maintained his former stance on the police and the military to be among the first to receive a COVID-19 vaccine if it becomes available, saying he needs them to be healthy.

Domingo told Duterte that they have yet to arrest any individuals involved in the alleged administration of such vaccine to Filipinos.

The members of the Presidential Security Group (PSG) were reported to be the first among the state security forces to be inoculated by a COVID-19 vaccine. However, when interviewed by the media, PSG commander Gen. Jesus Durante parried questions on the name of the vaccine, the manufacturer or their source, how it entered the country and how the PSG acquired it. What the PSG commander declared was it cost them nothing and that they used the vaccine by their own discretion and at their own risk, knowing that the vaccine has yet to get the approval of the FDA, if only to secure the President. If the vaccine reached them gratis, was it donated then? If so, who is the donor? The General refused to divulge information on the matter.

However, Philippine Army Chief Lieutenant General Cirilito Sobejana said that soldiers in some units had already been inoculated by a COVID-19 vaccine. The vaccines, accordingly, came from the Armed Forces of the Philippines chain of command headed by President Rodrigo Duterte.

But Palace spokesperson Roque was quick in a disclaimer that President Duterte did not authorize the vaccination of soldiers with Sinopharm’s experimental vaccine against COVID-19; that the decision must have rested on the commanders of the soldiers.

Inoculating soldiers with a vaccine whose safety and reliability is still in question puts lives at great risk. No matter how good the intention, doing it without the authority of the high command is like going to a suicide mission without the imperative sanction. It could be an offense subject to a court martial proceeding.

Cover up and more cover up is becoming the name of the game.

So much for transparency in governance in this trying pandemic time.

In the deliberate blackout, you can’t blame people getting angry and from speculating of grand scale smuggling at high level; and that what we are seeing is a tip of another gargantuan iceberg of corruption even much bigger than that of the phenomenal PhilHealth. This time, not just the health of the people but also the soul of the nation might be at stake.

A vaccine is supposed to bring us hope and salvation from the pandemic.

The first to arrive in the country brought woes, despair and much gnashing of teeth.

(MindaViews is the opinion section of MindaNews. William R. Adan, Ph.D., is retired professor and former chancellor of Mindanao State University at Naawan, Misamis Oriental, Philippines.)

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