By Deighton Acuin

PHOTO: Presidential Communications

President Rodrigo Duterte dared Vice President Leni Robredo anew to go shop for coronavirus vaccines outside the Philippines, adding he will fund her procurements in case she manages to find doses.

Duterte latest rant comes after Robredo called for reviews on donated vaccines developed by Sinovac Biotech, which arrived on Sunday and was used to vaccinate several hospital workers as the government’s vaccination program officially started.

Robredo said in her Sunday radio program that Sinovac’s vaccine should undergo the right process to ensure that health workers are protected, especially as it has not secured any recommendation from the Health Technology Assessment Council (HTAC).

“Ganito na lang, sabihin ko sa’yo uli kung marunong kang makinig: walang bakuna ngayon available either hingiin mo, nakawin mo, or bayaran mo.  Not only the Philippines, as stated by… earlier binigyan tayo ng worldwide situation ng vaccines… hirap rin sila,” Duterte said in his pre-recorded briefing Monday night.

“Ngayon kung gusto mo talaga para mahinto ka, kunin mo ‘yong basket mo, mamalengke ka doon sa labas ng bakuna.  Bigyan kita pera, para kung may mabili ka bilhin mo na agad at umuwi ka dito sa Pilipinas, bigay mo doon sa mga doktor,” he added.

He stressed the western brands — like Johnson and Johnson, Pfizer-BioNTech, and AstraZeneca — are running out of stocks because of prioritizing the countries of origin.

He also claimed Robredo only wants to be relevant by appearing concerned over healthcare frontliners.

“Ang Amerika meron, pero inuuna nila.  Ito, alam mo, unahan ito: ako muna bago kayo kasi amin ‘to, as correctly stated by Secretary Galvez.  It is only China who has come up with that commitment to so many nations, I don’t know how many, but I’m sure that China will honor on time,” Duterte explained.

“‘Yan ang mahirap sa’yo eh, you want to be relevant.  And you know, sometimes you make an idiotic stance, ‘yong mga gano’n na ‘they deserve the best.’  Anak ka ng— bakit ako, I would give them the worst?  Mamatay ka na, hindi ko iwanan ‘yong mga frontliner, and you do not need really to be redundant about it,” Duterte fumed.

Before the arrival of 600,000 Sinovac doses, Robredo and Senator Francis Pangilinan called for further review. They noted AstraZeneca and Pfizer vaccines were given a positive recommendation from HTAC.

Robredo and Pangilinan were not the first to make such calls: last Saturday, doctors from the Philippine General Hospital (PGH) said that Sinovac’s vaccines must be tested first before it is used on PGH workers.

However, the government started vaccinating health workers to ensure that they would be protected from the disease, even without the HTAC nod.  Duterte said that the processes that the vaccine undertook are already sufficient.

Among the first to legally receive vaccines are PGH Director Dr. Gerardo Legazpi and other hospital staffers, Food and Drug Administration (FDA) chief Eric Domingo, and other officials like MMDA chairperson Benhur Abalos.

Sinovac previously secured an emergency use authorization from the Food and Drug Administration, but has said the vaccines should not be used to healthcare workers due to low rate of efficacy.

But Sinovac vaccine was approved by the National Immunization Technical Advisory Group (NITAG) for its usage for healthcare workers.

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