Sellers of COVID-19 vaccination slots face jail, warns MMDA chief

A healthcare worker prepares to administer Russian Sputnik V COVID-19 vaccine at a sports arena on May 4, 2021 in Makati, Metro Manila, Philippines. (Photo: Ezra Acayan/Getty Images)

MANILA, Philippines — Metropolitan Manila Development Authority Chairman Benhur Abalos said that those who sell their COVID-19 vaccination slots will face charges and even jail time.

“They could just talk with anyone making the schedule and if that person is part of this, it could be possible. That’s why we’re looking into this, we’re going to arrest this person. There’s one thing I will promise you: I promise you that these persons will really be charged and go to jail. We’re very serious about this.”

Reports say that the authorities are looking into the alleged sale of COVID-19 vaccination slots in Mandaluyong City, where a customer could choose the brand available at a vaccination site. 

Abalos, whose wife is the mayor of Mandaluyong City, said he is coordinating with the Philippine National Police and the National Bureau of Investigation to look into the allegation. 

One person has so far been identified, he said, adding that the person is not an employee of city hall.

Although it could not be assured if the scheme makes true of its promise to reserve slots for a fee, those who are involved will be sued.

“If it is really true, we will make sure that all of those involved will really face the full force of the law. They will be charged in court and of course they would be jailed. And if this fellow is just making a story, again he will also be charged in court,” he said.

The scheme was reported just as the national government prohibited the early announcement of COVID-19 vaccine brand to prevent mass gathering at vaccination sites.

The Philippines, which has recorded more than 1 million coronavirus infections and nearly 20,000 deaths, has approved for emergency use seven brands of COVID-19 vaccines, including China’s Sinovac Biotech and Pfizer/BioNTech. 

“Those who are engaged in the unauthorised sale of anti-COVID vaccines, we ask you to stop what you are doing,” the government’s coronavirus task force said in a statement. “The long arm of the law will soon catch up on you.” 

  More than 2.5 million people have so far received the first dose of a COVID-19 vaccine since the Philippines began its immunisation drive on March 1, Department of Health data showed. More than 780,000 people having been given both doses. 

  The Philippines is giving priority to healthcare workers, the elderly and people with medical conditions in its vaccination campaign that targets to inoculate 50 to 70 million of its 110 million people this year. 

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