PH to probe bribery claims vs. vaccine maker Sinovac

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Metro Manila (CNN Philippines, December 9) — A Chinese company close to holding COVID-19 vaccine clinical trials in the country will undergo an investigation related to past allegations of bribery, Health Secretary Francisco Duque III said on Wednesday.

The Washington Post on December 4 reported that Sinovac Biotech was found to have a record of bribing Chinese drug regulators to secure vaccine approvals. Citing court records, the news outlet said Sinovac's CEO allegedly gave out payments to receive speedy approvals for their SARS vaccine in 2003 and swine flu vaccine back in 2009. However, the Washington Post said there is no evidence the vaccines involved in the bribery issue were faulty.

Duque said they are aware of the allegations. He added the vaccine experts panel is tasked to validate the news report so Philippine authorities can make an informed decision whether to allow Sinovac to hold trials in the country or allow the emergency use of its vaccine "CoronaVac."

"The prudent thing to do is to investigate, to validate. If true, it's up to the vaccine expert panel to include this in their final report and also FDA," he said in a media briefing. "[Para] masiguro natin na hindi tayo mabibiktima dahil sa mga ganitong kwestiyonableng transaksyon kung totoong nangyayari po iyan."

[Translation: So we can be sure we will not fall victims to their questionable transactions if proven to be true.]

Vaccine czar Carlito Galvez Jr. was quoted in a television interview on Wednesday that Sinovac may be the first vaccine to be distributed in the country. It is also "a few more documents" away from holding its trial in the Philippines.