President Rodrigo Duterte has alleged that some Filipinos, including members of the military, have been inoculated with China-made COVID-19 vaccines even if state regulators have yet to approve the use of jabs in the country.
In his televised address Saturday night, Duterte claimed he should be “frank” in saying that many Filipinos have received vaccines from Sinopharm.
“Halos lahat ng sundalo natusukan na. I have to be frank and I have to tell the truth. I will not foist a lie,” he said during a meeting with Cabinet members in Malacañang.
“Marami nang nagpatusok and lahat. Up to now, wala akong narinig sa — for the select few — not all soldiers, not all soldiers, hindi pa kasi policy, eh,” he added.
Food and Drug Administration (FDA) director general Eric Domingo, who attended the meeting, said his agency has not caught anyone performing or involved in the illegal vaccinations.
“Naka-tatlong raid na po kami sa Makati at saka sa Binondo pero wala naman po kaming nahuli pa,” he said.
According to the President, he has yet to hear negative side effects among those who received the Sinopharm vaccine.
The Philippines is eyeing to purchase vaccines from Sinopharm even if senators have raised doubts over the reported 50-percent effectiveness rate of the Sinopharm vaccine in trials in Brazil. They also noted the Sinopharm vaccines are more expensive than other brands.
The unregulated COVID-19 vaccines which allegedly entered the Philippine market, first came into light in November, after Senate President Vicente Sotto III had claimed that Senator Panfilo Lacson and House Majority Leader Martin Romualdez were given vaccine shots that can be likened to that of Pfizer’s.
Lacson neither confirmed nor denied whether he had been immunized to the disease, adding that lawmakers crack jokes during their break from work. Romualdez, meanwhile, was mum on the matter.
As of writing, FDA has yet to approve the use of COVID-19 vaccines in the Philippines, but officials have assured the public that negotiations with manufacturers are ongoing to ensure that the government can purchase jabs for its large-scale immunization program.
The country’s regulatory board said that COVID-19 vaccines may be available in the Philippines by the second quarter of 2021.
A report by the South China Morning Post said that China’s Centre for Drug Evaluation is reviewing Sinopharm’s application to release one of its two candidates to the market.
The two COVID-19 vaccines have been undergoing testing for safety and efficacy in 10 countries across South America and the Middle East. Earlier this month, the United Arab Emirates approved one of them for use, saying it was 86 percent effective.