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

Bella Perez-Rubio - Philstar.com
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

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

COVID-19

COVID-19 VACCINES

DELFIN LORENZANA

NOVEL CORONAVIRUS

PRESIDENTIAL SECURITY GROUP

As It Happens
LATEST UPDATE: April 14, 2022 - 9:19am

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 14, 2022 - 9:19am

The head of US pharmaceutical giant Pfizer says a COVID-19 vaccine effective against multiple variants is possible before the end of 2022.

Chairman Albert Bourla says the firm was also working on producing a vaccine that could provide good protection for a whole year, meaning people would come back annually for boosters, as with influenza shots.

"I hope, clearly by autumn... that we could have a vaccine" that worked against not only the dominant Omicron but all known variants, he says. — AFP 

March 25, 2022 - 2:16pm

Australia is offering a fourth dose of COVID-19 vaccines to over 65s from next month, federal health authorities announce, as a new Omicron strain races through the population.

The top advisory group on vaccines approved the fourth shot for vulnerable groups: those aged over 65, indigenous people over 50, people who are immunocompromised and care home residents.

In the past six weeks, other countries, including France, Germany and Sweden as well as  health authorities in England, have recommended a fourth Covid-19 vaccine dose for the most vulnerable, including the elderly. — AFP

March 18, 2022 - 10:13am

Moderna announces it had asked the United States drug regulator for emergency authorization for a second booster shot of the company's COVID-19 vaccine for all adults.

The request to the US Food and Drug Administration (FDA) would "allow for a fourth dose of our #COVID19 vaccine in adults 18 years of age and older who have received an initial booster" of any approved Covid jab, Moderna said on Twitter.

The request comes days after Pfizer-BioNTech, makers of the other Covid mRNA vaccine, also requested emergency approval for a second booster shot, but their request was limited to adults aged 65 and older. — AFP

March 18, 2022 - 10:12am

Moderna announces it had asked the United States drug regulator for emergency authorization for a second booster shot of the company's Covid-19 vaccine for all adults.

The request to the US Food and Drug Administration (FDA) would "allow for a fourth dose of our #COVID19 vaccine in adults 18 years of age and older who have received an initial booster" of any approved Covid jab, Moderna says on Twitter.

The request comes days after Pfizer-BioNTech, makers of the other Covid mRNA vaccine, also requested emergency approval for a second booster shot, but their request was limited to adults aged 65 and older. — AFP

March 17, 2022 - 2:34pm

The United States has given more than 500 million coronavirus vaccines to other countries since the jabs were developed, Secretary of State Antony Blinken said Thursday in a statement obtained by AFP.

"The United States has now shared over 500 million safe and effective Covid-19 vaccine doses, free of cost, to more than 110 countries and economies around the world — for the sole purpose of saving lives," Blinken said.

Washington aims to more than double that amount to 1.1 billion doses, as the Covid pandemic persists around the globe. — AFP

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