Rep. Ronaldo Zamora‘s (San Juan City) admission that he received a total of four COVID-19 vaccines prompted calls to hold him accountable as the health department previously warned medical workers of possible sanctions for administering booster shots.
The 76-year-old lawmaker on Monday admitted to receiving two doses of China’s Sinopharm and USA’s Pfizer vaccines despite the limited supplies of COVID-19 vaccines in the country.
Zamora revealed this when he was welcoming guests at a press conference in his city last Monday wherein he wasn’t wearing a face mask which is mandated by the government.
“Kung nagtataka kayo kung bakit si Congressman Zamora ay hindi nagma-mask, sasabihin ko sa inyo, I have been vaccinated twice, twice over—apat,” he was quoted as saying last Monday.
Zamora said that he received his Sinopharm shots in December last year. It was the same brand that President Rodrigo Duterte took to protect himself from COVID-19.
The solon said his doctors told him he was “immunodeficient” and that he should get two booster shots from Pfizer, which has the highest vaccine efficacy rate, amid the pandemic.
San Juan City Mayor Francis Zamora, the lawmaker’s son, revealed that his father had a quadruple bypass about 16 years ago and a kidney transplant some six years ago.
“Iyong naging vaccination ni Congressman Ronnie Zamora ay upon doctor’s orders,” he was quoted as saying in a Malacañang press briefing.
What the DOH said
Meanwhile, Health Secretary Francisco Duque III, who was present when the elder Zamora admitted to receiving four COVID-19 vaccine shots, reportedly did not publicly react to his comments.
He, however, told GMA News that there is no study yet proving the mix and match of booster dose.
“So far, ang dataos kulang pa para magsabi kung ito ba ay ligtas. So nag-aantay pa rin tayo ng pag-aaral at sapat na datos para mas malinaw kung ok lang ‘yung mix and match at booster dose,” Duque said.
“Eh well, siya kasi immunocompromised na, so ‘yun ang payo ng doctor niya, para tuloy-tuloy daw ang proteksyon,” he added.
Health Undersecretary Maria Rosario Vergeire previously said that healthcare workers who will administer COVID-19 vaccine booster shots may face sanctions.
She reminded the public that the agency is not yet recommending such as more evidence is needed to determine if an additional shot is needed to protect people from the virus.
Veirgeire also said that that the emergency use authorizations issued for COVID-19 vaccines do not indicate the use of a booster dose.
“Whatever was indicated in the [Emergency Use Authorization], that will be the use of the vaccine. Let us be careful because if there’s a violation, you may face sanctions,” she said in Filipino during a briefing.
Vergeire added that the health agency was “not informed” about the elder Zamora’s case.
‘Healthcare workers as scapegoats?’
Some of those who learned of the Department of Health‘s comments on the issue questioned why it only gave a warning to the healthcare workers in response.
“So walang consequence? Warning lang for others not to do it pero siya na nagawa na, scott-free?” a Twitter user quipped.
“Omg sa HCW (healthcare workers) talaga ang sisi???” another online user exclaimed with exploding head emojis.
“Healthworkers na naman may kasalanan, ano? Salamat ha,” a Twitter user working in the medical field commented with sarcasm.
“Why is the burden put onto the health workers? Immune ba sa liability ‘yung nagpa-‘booster shot’?” another online user asked.
“Wala man lang pa-call out sa mga elected government officials for having such shots??? E sila ‘tong nasa position of power to put pressure on HCWs?” a different Filipino likewise said.
Dr. Gene Nisperos, board member of Community Medicine Development Foundation, said that the situation places healthcare workers as the “convenient escape goats.”
“The message in this particular case: The privileged and powerful get away with anything, while health workers are convenient escape goats. Bakit ganito ang DOH?! Bakit ganito ang gobyernong ito?!” he tweeted.
Vaccination in the Philippines so far
Reports said that only 3.2% of Filipinos are fully vaccinated against COVID-19 ever since the government started the mass vaccination drive last March.
This accounts for over 3.5 million people who have received two doses.
Meanwhile, 8.6% of Filipinos—or 9.66 million—have received their first doses as of July 11.
National Task Force Against COVID-19 chief implementer and vaccine czar Carlito Galvez Jr. said that the government’s “total target population for vaccination is 77,746,906” to achieve herd immunity.
The Philippines’ population as of 2020 is at 109 million.
He admitted that reaching herd immunity this year is a “big challenge.”
As of Tuesday afternoon, Director-General Eric Domingo of the local Food and Drug Administration said that they will investigate the Sinopharm distribution following the elder Zamora’s admission.
He said that the regulatory body will see if it is connected with the illegal vaccination of Duterte’s close-in security last December.
“There’s a possibility that these are all connected, ‘di ba? That it’s one supplier, and one person, one group is distributing these vaccines,” Domingo was quoted as saying.
“Walang kaso sa FDA si Cong. Zamora as recipient. Ang iniinvestigate namin ‘yung illegal importing, distribution of unregistered vaccine. And we hope Cong. Zamora can give us info,” he added.