Lorenzana admits Sinopharm vaccines used by Duterteâs security detail were smuggled
President Duterte is escorted by the Presidential Security Group during his arrival at the Batasang Pambansa for his State of the Nation Address on July 27, 2020. The AFP has confirmed that members of the PSG have been given vaccines ‘to ensure that the President is safe from all threats, including COVID-19.’
Presidential photo

Lorenzana admits Sinopharm vaccines used by Duterte’s security detail were smuggled

Bella Perez-Rubio (Philstar.com) - December 30, 2020 - 10:29am

MANILA, Philippines — Amid continued uproar over the unauthorized inoculation of the president's top men, National Defense Secretary Delfin Lorenzana on Thursday confirmed that the COVID-19 vaccines used by the Presidential Security Group entered the country illegally.

"Yes, it’s smuggled," Lorenzana told ABS-CBN, referring to the Sinopharm vaccines used by the PSG, during a ceremony held in commemoration of Rizal Day.

"Because its not authorized to enter here. Only the government can authorize that through the [Food and Drug Administration],” he further explained.

'I don't know'

While Lorenzana knows the vaccines were smuggled, he copped to not knowing much else.

"As far as we knew then, the rumor spreading was that PSG had already been vaccinated. Who authorized it, we did not ask. It is only now that those facts are coming out that the vaccine is not yet authorized in the Philippines," he said in Filipino.

No coronavirus vaccine has been approved by the country's FDA — any inoculation effort thus far would have made use of an unauthorized vaccine. It is unclear if Lorenzana knows this.

In keeping with every single official questioned over the matter, Lorenzana maintained that he also did not know who gave the Sinopharm doses to the government.

Despite his position as defense secretary, he was also unwilling to weigh in on the PSG's invocation of its duty to defend the president to justify its bypassing of the law. "I don't know the answer to that," he said in Filipino when asked about the matter.

Illegal but 'justified'?

When asked if he would take action on the matter as defense secretary, Lorenzana implied that he would not be doing much at all. "PSG just really need to explain why they did that. It is justified. Anyway, the vaccine is not fake, it is real," he said.

Again, it is unclear why Lorenzana made this pronouncement regarding the Sinopharm vaccine. While it has received authorization for emergency use in some countries including the United Arab Emirates, Argentina and Morocco, the Peruvian government suspended its own trials citing a “serious adverse event” which occurred among the volunteers of its study. In addition to this, the Philippines has not conducted its own trials for the Sinopharm jabs and is not expected to receive any vaccines at all until March 2021.

"Maybe explain that to the FDA because they violated the FDA rules," the defense chief said in Filipino. FDA chief Eric Domingo said the move was done without consulting them or the health department, and even Secretary Francisco Duque III was surprised to find about the development.

Bureau of Customs spokesperson Vincent Maronilla said no communications were made to them that vaccines would be transported inside borders but stopped short of calling them smuggled, citing a lack of details. But, he recognized that if the items were misdeclared, it would be tantamount to technical smuggling — or, as defined by law in the Philippines, importing goods through "fraudulent, falsified or erroneous declarations."

Adding to public confusion, Brig. Gen. Jesus P. Durante, PSG commander, during an interview with ANC's "Headstart" on Thursday refused to reveal exactly how many members of the president's security detail have been inoculated. He also refused to reveal if he was among those who received the unregulated vaccine.

Immediately following Lorenzana's acknowledgement of the smuggling of the Sinopharm vaccines into the country, Sen. Francis Pangilinan slammed it as a continued consequence of what he called the lack of a coherent and equitable game plan on the control and management of the disease.

"It is unfortunate that even though there is vaccine czar [Carlito] Galvez who I believe is capable and should be in charge of the vaccine rollout, officials are still acting individually and have conflicting explanations on legality," he said in Filipino.

"We cannot do this individually. The lives of millions of our countrymen are at stake. The livelihoods of millions of our hungry countrymen also depend on economic recovery which depends on the proper implementation of the vaccine rollout nationwide. We can't make mistakes here," Pangilinan added.

RELATED: As gov’t execs take prohibited vaccines, Duterte asserts stance vs illegal drugs'Gov't-sanctioned black market': Hontiveros hits inoculation of VIPs with unauthorized vaccines

— with a report from Christian Deiparine

As It Happens
LATEST UPDATE: April 10, 2021 - 9:12am

Pharma giants Sanofi and GSK said on July 29, 2020, that they have agreed to supply Britain with up to 60 million doses of a potential COVID-19 vaccine. The agreement covers a vaccine candidate developed by France's Sanofi in partnership with the UK's GSK and is subject to a "final contract."

This thread collects some of the major developments in the search for a vaccine to ease the new coronavirus pandemic. (Main photo by AFP/Joel Saget)

April 10, 2021 - 9:12am

Europe's stuttering vaccine rollout faces multiple hurdles as EU regulators say they were reviewing side effects of the Johnson & Johnson shot and France further limits its use of the AstraZeneca jab.

The US drugs regulator says it had not found a "causal" link between the J&J vaccine and blood clots, but that its probe was continuing after "a few individuals" suffered complications.

Much of the world is still in the clutches of the pandemic that has killed 2.9 million people, from Brazil, where the virus is killing more than 4,000 people a day, to Japan where the government has tightened restrictions once again. — AFP

April 9, 2021 - 1:08pm

Hong Kong confirms it has requested AstraZeneca suspend delivery of its Covid-19 vaccine amid fears of severe side effects and concerns over its efficacy against new variants of the coronavirus.

Hong Kong's health chief Sophia Chan said the city has asked AstraZeneca not to deliver as planned later this year. 

"We think it is not necessary for AstraZeneca to deliver the vaccines to the city within this year," she says, adding Hong Kong wanted "to avoid any waste as vaccines are in short supply globally". — AFP

April 8, 2021 - 6:32pm

Australia on Thursday joined a growing number of countries halting the use of the AstraZeneca coronavirus vaccine for younger people over fears it can cause serious blood clots.

In a further setback for Australia's already halting coronavirus vaccine rollout, officials said the AstraZeneca shot should no longer be given to people under the age of 50, unless they had already received a first dose without any ill effects.

Prime Minister Scott Morrison held an evening press conference to announce the decision shortly after the government's medical advisory board decided to follow European and other countries in limiting the use of AstraZeneca.

"It has not been our practice to jump at shadows, it has not been our practice to take unnecessary precautions," he said in explaining the step. 

"We've been taking the necessary precautions based on the best possible medical advice." -- AFP

April 8, 2021 - 10:06am

The EU's medicines regulator says that blood clots should be listed as a rare side effect of the AstraZeneca jab but the benefits continue to outweigh risks, as several countries battle fresh virus surges amid vaccine shortfalls.

A number of nations have suspended the use of AstraZeneca's vaccine for younger populations after it was earlier banned outright in several places over blood clot scares.

The United Kingdom says it will adopt new medical advice to offer most people under 30 an alternative to AstraZeneca if possible, after reporting 19 deaths from clots among people who received the shot. — AFP  

April 7, 2021 - 3:38pm

Britain begins rolling out its third coronavirus vaccine, from US company Moderna, as questions mount over jabs from the country's main supplier, AstraZeneca.

The Moderna vaccine, which is already being delivered in Europe and the United States, joined ones from AstraZeneca-Oxford University and Pfizer-BioNTech in Britain's armoury against COVID-19.

The first jabs of the two-stage Moderna inoculation were injected at a hospital in Wales, in a timely diversification of Britain's rollout that was hailed by Prime Minister Boris Johnson. — AFP

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