Duterte's security used 'smuggled' vaccines, but troops will wait for FDA-approved drug – Lorenzana

enablePagination: false
maxItemsPerPage: 10
maxPaginationLinks: 10


Metro Manila (CNN Philippines, December 30) — Defense Secretary Delfin Lorenzana on Wednesday admitted that illegal means were undertaken for President Rodrigo Duterte's close-in security to be vaccinated ahead of everyone else with unlicensed drugs.

The Cabinet official said the unregistered COVID-19 vaccines were smuggled in small batches to escape the authorities since the country's Food and Drug Administration has not yet approved the entry and use of any vaccine.

"It is smuggled because it's been unauthorized. Hindi authorized itong mga pumapasok dito. Only the government can authorize that through the FDA, so lumulusot 'yan dito, unti-unti siguro," he said in an interview during the Rizal Day rites.

[Translation: The vaccines entering the country are not authorized. Only the FDA can authorize that, so it probably entered the country in small batches.]

The Presidential Security Group, the team which guards Duterte, has secretly completed their two doses over a month ago. The covert activity only came to light this week after the President revealed that "almost all soldiers" have been jabbed with China-made vaccine Sinopharm — which has not even applied for clinical trial nor emergency use in the Philippines.

PSG Chief Jesus Durante said the doses were donated, but FDA Director General Eric Domingo said it still has to go through their agency and the Department of Health — an important step skipped by the PSG, an agency attached to the Office of the President.

Lorenzana says the PSG has to explain to FDA since it violated the country's regulatory laws. At the same time, he defended their action because it's "justified" since they did it to effectively carry out their duties.

"Sa tingin ko naman ay hindi [breach of security]. Maganda naman ang layunin nila," he said. "Everybody there is safe from COVID kasi for a while, noong umpisa I think half of the PSG people have been infected."

[Translation: I don't think it was a breach of security. They did it in good faith. Now everybody there is safe. At the start of the pandemic half of the PSG staff were infected.]

If AFP receives an offer to use the same illegally-imported vaccines, Lorenzana said they will decline, wait for an FDA-approved drug, and follow the prioritization list.

The FDA and Bureau of Customs are now investigating the smuggling incident. Chinese Foreign Ministry Spokesperson Wang Wenbin, meanwhile, said they are also cracking down on illegal importation of these drugs.

"China manages COVID-19 vaccines in a very rigorous manner. We will combat criminal activities like illegal distribution of vaccines, and guarantee safe and secure vaccine research and development, manufacturing," he said in a press briefing on Tuesday.