AN ONGOING investigation into the illegal use of smuggled coronavirus disease 2019 (Covid-19) vaccines from China will now include the claim of broadcaster Mon Tulfo that he, too, has received the vaccine.
Food and Drug Administration (FDA) Director General Eric Domingo said Tulfo’s disclosure will be referred to the agency’s regulatory enforcement unit for investigation.
Domingo, however, noted that the Presidential Security Group (PSG), which is the primary subject of investigation, has not replied to their queries.
The PSG had admitted that its members were inoculated with the Covid-19 vaccine from state-owned pharmaceutical company Sinopharm of China.
The vaccine is not allowed for use in the Philippines as it is not covered by an emergency use authorization (EUA) or product registration.
“'Yun pong sa PSG hanggang ngayon wala pa ring kasagutan ang aming tanong pati ang DOH ay sumulat sa kanila pero as of now wala pa rin po kaming nakukuhang impormasyon,” Domingo said during the virtual Laging Handa public briefing Wednesday, February 24, 2021.
Department of Health Undersecretary Maria Rosario Vergeire, in a separate press conference Wednesday, said using an unregistered vaccine or one that is not covered by an EUA is considered illegal.
"'Yung mga ganyan, katulad niyan, may lumalabas pa rin na ibang tao na umaamin na nabakunahan sila, ito po ay makakasama sa imbestigasyon and all of these things, kapag nakita natin na hindi ayon sa batas na meron tayo sa bansa, will be considered illegal," Vergeire said.
"Kung sino man po ‘yung mga kababayan natin o 'di kaya ay mga distributors or suppliers na nagbibigay nitong mga bakunang wala pa hong emergency use authority ay magkakaroon ng appropriate investigation and if there will be violations, magkaka-sanction po," she added.
Tulfo, who is also President Rodrigo Duterte’s special envoy to China, admitted getting inoculated with the Sinopharm vaccine.
He said he wanted to see for himself the efficacy of the vaccine because he planned to apply for distributorship in the country.
"You have to understand that although I'm a special envoy to China, I'm also a private citizen. Nag-a-apply ako ng distributorship ng Sinopharm," Tulfo said in a television interview.
"Kaya ko naisipan na magpabakuna kasi ang available sa market although smuggled nga kaya ay gusto kong makatiyak na kung effective sa akin, malamang effective sa sambayanan," he added.
He denied using his appointment in order to get the vaccine. He said a friend who smuggled the vaccines into the Philippines had provided him with the needed doses.
"Wala akong nakitang conflict of interest dito. Private citizen naman ako e. Ang special envoy to China is just an honorific (title),” Tulfo said.
"I'm not a government official," he added.
Tulfo said he also informed Duterte several weeks ago. He said Duterte wants to receive the Sinopharm vaccine but was advised against it.
Presidential Spokesperson Harry Roque, in his regular press briefing, said the President’s doctors advised against Sinopharm because it is not covered by an EUA yet. The company has not even filed an application for an EUA.
Roque declined to comment on Tulfo's revelation, but said getting inoculated with smuggled Covid-19 vaccines is not a government policy. (SunStar Philippines)