‘Black market’ of Sinopharm? Local distributor says not a lot of vaccines brought to PH

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Metro Manila (CNN Philippines, January 26)— Initial investigation on the alleged smuggling of China's Sinopharm vaccine to the Philippines showed not a lot of vials were brought in, according to the company's local distributor.

“Based on our initial investigation, ‘yung vaccine na dinala sa Pilipinas, hindi naman sobrang dami ‘yun,” Mark Tolentino, president and CEO of MKG Universal Drugs Trading Corporation, told CNN Philippines’ The Source on Tuesday when asked about the reported “black market” of vaccines in the country.

MKG is the sole and exclusive distributor of Sinopharm.

Kasi may nadala dito, based on our initial investigation, galing lang ‘yun sa clinical trials,” he pointed out. “Maybe pinakamarami na ‘yung 10, sabihin natin 20 na vials. ‘Yun lang ang information na nakuha ko as of today.”

[Translation: Based on our initial investigation, the vaccines that were brought to the Philippines, there weren’t a lot. The ones brought here, based on our initial investigation, were from the clinical trials. There were at most 10, maybe 20 vials. That’s the only information I have as of today.]

He said based on information relayed by Sinopharm, it's possible that the doses were obtained from clinical trials in Abu Dhabi.

During the Senate Committee of the Whole hearing on Friday, MKG assured it would launch its own probe on the alleged illegal release of Sinopharm’s vaccine, stressing that no official distribution has taken place pending regulatory approval.

Tolentino said the company and Sinopharm have yet to identify the source of the vaccines brought to the Philippines, adding they are still gathering more information about the matter.

President Rodrigo Duterte himself revealed that a number of military men have been inoculated with the COVID-19 vaccine from Sinopharm— a case that has raised concerns of a possible black market of vaccines in the country.

Government agencies including the FDA, the Bureau of Customs, and the National Bureau of Investigation have launched probes into the issue. The FDA has repeatedly warned that using unregistered vaccines is risky, and that selling them is illegal.