'Black market' for COVID-19 shots? FDA says illegally sold doses unsafe for use

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Metro Manila (CNN Philippines, July 9) — The Food and Drug Administration reminded the public not to buy COVID-19 vaccines which might be sold and distributed quietly within the country by unauthorized sources.

Speaking to CNN Philippines' The Source on Friday, FDA Director General Eric Domingo said authorities are now looking into the origin of 300 Sinovac doses previously seized by the National Bureau of Investigation and turned over to the agency for safekeeping.

"We are now tracing and looking at how they got in and where they got these vaccines. Once vaccines get out of the system, they are not safe for use because there is no way of knowing how they were handled and, in this case, when we saw them, these probably didn't go through the right cold handling facilities," Domingo said.

The NBI earlier apprehended three people allegedly behind the sale of the 300 doses, including a nurse, a medical technologist.

COVID-19 vaccines being used in the Philippines are only approved for emergency use and cannot be sold commercially.

READ: Galvez: Probe into alleged sale of COVID-19 vaccines underway 

Domingo said that they still have to figure out whether the retrieved doses came from batches legally sourced by the Philippine government or not. He added that there is a possibility "that someone is holding more products" that were not authorized for distribution.

"This one, definitely black market, this was being sold from the back of a car (at) a very high price. When we look at the vaccines, they look authentic, they really look like real vaccines," Domingo said.

"However, bukas na, medyo madumi ang packaging, nakalagay lang sa parang (it was already opened, the packaging is dirty, enclosed in a) styrofoam box with ice. Definitely very, very unsafe products."

The FDA is already coordinating with Sinovac and checking the records of the Department of Health to trace the source of the seized vaccines.

President Rodrigo Duterte warned in his public address on Tuesday that illegal vaccine sellers in the country will face appropriate charges for engaging in such scheme.