MANILA (Reuters) – The Philippines is investigating reports that some people have been illegally selling COVID-19 shots or their vaccine slots for financial gain, officials said on Saturday, as they reminded the public the vaccines are free. 

  Law enforcers learned of the illicit activity through social media posts where sellers offer vaccine slots for as much as 15,000 pesos ($313), Philippine police chief Guillermo Eleazar said in a statement. 

  "The sale of COVID-19 vaccines that have been granted emergency use authorisation is illegal," Eleazar said as he ordered the police to identify and arrest those behind the scam. 

  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. 

  ($1 = 47.9100 Philippine pesos) 

  (Reporting by Karen Lema; Editing by Lincoln Feast.) 

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