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FDA probe into PSG vaccine smuggling hits 'blank wall'

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FDA probe into PSG vaccine smuggling hits 'blank wall'
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 — The Food and Drug Administration admitted Tuesday that its investigation into the smuggling of coronavirus vaccines for use by President Rodrigo Duterte’s guards has hit a “blank wall” as the Presidential Security Group is not cooperating in the probe.

“We’re not getting any information, the DOH (Department of Health) is not getting information,” FDA Director General Eric Domingo told ANC’s Matters of Fact.

Despite this, Domingo said they are still continuing their investigation, gathering information from sources other than the PSG.

He added that their focus now is to prevent the smuggling of vaccines from ever happening again.

“Our focus really is in the Bureau of Customs, working with them to make sure there is no smuggling going on, especially now that we already have products coming in that are legal,” Domingo said.

Domingo previously told CNN Philippines’ The Source in January that Health Secretary Francisco Duque III wrote to the PSG asking for a list of who was vaccinated and what vaccine was given to them, but Duterte’s guards reportedly did not respond.

This is despite assurance from Malacañang that the PSG will cooperate with the investigations of the FDA and the National Bureau of Investigation after Duterte told his guards to “shut up” in case they are hauled to congressional inquiry on their illegal vaccination.

Duterte has fiercely defended the PSG’s inoculation with smuggled, unauthorized vaccines, while top government officials have encouraged the public to move on from the scandal that drew furor and calls for accountability from the public and lawmakers.

But months since Duterte himself admitted that his guards, along with other military personnel, have been given the still-unauthorized Sinopharm shots, no one has been held accountable for smuggling the vaccines into the country.

If anything, it has led to the FDA allowing the PSG to use Sinopharm vaccines and another brazen admission — this time from Duterte’s former special envoy to China, Ramon Tulfo — that certain top government officials have received the same jabs.  

Domingo said they are starting their investigation on Tulfo’s admission, but could not give an update as to its progress. — Xave Gregorio

COVID-19 VACCINE

FOOD AND DRUG ADMINISTRATION

PRESIDENTIAL SECURITY GROUP

RODRIGO DUTERTE

SINOPHARM

As It Happens
LATEST UPDATE: January 4, 2022 - 9:06am

The national government has so far secured two official deals for COVID-19 vaccine supplies in the Philippines, one with Chinese pharmaceutical company Sinovac and another with the Serum Institute of India.

Watch this space for bite-sized developments on the vaccines in the Philippines. (Main image by Markus Spiske via Unsplash)

January 4, 2022 - 9:06am

Government must increase vaccination capacity across the Philippines in anticipation of a surge of COVID-19 cases caused by the Omicron variant of the corona virus, Sen. Risa Hontiveros says.

She says local government units and the private sector can work together to put up more vaccination centers and deploy more vaccination teams to get more people inoculated against COVID-19.

"The active COVID cases have nearly doubled in three days. The positivity rate is almost four times the ceiling set by the World Health Organization. Huwag na nating hintayin na sobrang lumala pa ang sitwasyon bago tayo gumawa ng paraan para mapabilis ang ating pagbabakuna."

December 23, 2021 - 11:44am

FDA chief Eric Domingo says that its agency has given emergency approval for the use of the Pfizer-BioNTech COVID-19 vaccine for children ages 5 to 11.

November 11, 2021 - 7:30am

The United States immunized around 900,000 children aged five-to-11 against Covid in the first week the Pfizer vaccine was authorized for them, a White House official says Wednesday.

Roughly 700,000 more have made appointments at pharmacies, White House Covid coordinator Jeff Zients tells reporters.

"The program is just getting up to full strength," he says, adding most of the shots were given in the last couple of days alone. — AFP

November 8, 2021 - 7:56pm

The Philippines has received 2.8 million doses of the Sputnik V COVID-19 vaccines from Russia.

The shipment arrived at the Villamor Air Base in Pasay City on Monday night and was met by President Rodrigo Duterte himself.

November 7, 2021 - 11:57am

A Department of the Interior and Local Government proposal to require Pantawid Pamilyang Pilipino Program beneficiaries to get vaccinated before cash transfers to them can be released will not help the poor, Sen. Risa Hontiveros says.

"Walang kundisyon sa 4Ps law na kailangang COVID-19 vaccinated ang recipients kaya dapat igalang at irespeto ng ating mga opisyal ang desisyon ng sinuman ukol sa pagbabakuna," she says. 

(The 4Ps Law does not include the condition that recipients must be vaccinated against COVID-19 so the government must respect people's decision to get vaccinated or not)

She says it would be better for government agencues like the social welfare and health departments to encourage 4Ps beneficiaries to get vaccinated but not as a condition to receive cash aid.

Hontiveros says encouragement and explanations have helped address vaccine hesitancy in Metro Manila.

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