Caixin
Jan 02, 2021 04:36 PM

Philippine Troops and Cabinet Member Receive Chinese Vaccines Before Approval

A number of Philippine soldiers, as well as members of the president’s security team and even possibly one cabinet members of the Philippine government may have already received the Chinese Covid-19 vaccine produced by Sinopharm. The news comes despite the country’s health authorities yet to officially approve its use.

Philippine president Rodrigo Duterte said during a televised meeting with health officials on Saturday that “almost all” soldiers have already been inoculated by a coronavirus vaccine developed by China’s state-owned vaccine maker, Sinopharm.

The country’s army chief Lieutenant General Cirilito Sobejana also confirmed on Monday that some troops had been vaccinated although he added that the number was not large.

Brigadier General Jesus Durante, unit chief of Duterte’s security team, known as the Presidential Security Group (PSG) also said in a statement that "The PSG administered Covid-19 vaccine to its personnel performing close-in security operations to the President."

However, the Philippine president himself was still waiting "for the perfect or appropriate vaccine," according to Durante.

The unit chief added during an interview with the local TV news channel ANC on Wednesday that the PSG undertook the vaccinations "independently" and that he took “full responsibility for our actions here.”

Philippine interior secretary Eduardo Ano also told ANC on Tuesday that “just one member of the Cabinet” was inoculated with the Covid-19 vaccine from China.

The Chinese government has approved the Sinopharm vaccine, after the company said Wednesday that it showed 79.34% efficacy, citing interim analysis of Phase 3 clinical trials.

Meanwhile, the Philippines has asked Chinese pharmaceutical company Sinovac to deliver 25 million doses of its Covid-19 vaccine by March 2021. The country is also in talks with Britain's AstraZeneca and US company Pfizer for vaccine supplies.

The Philippines’ Food and Drug Administration (FDA) has yet to approve any COVID-19 vaccine, making any importation, distribution and sale officially illegal. FDA Director General Enrique Domingo said he ordered the agency’s regulatory enforcement unit to investigate any unauthorized inoculations, local news website Rappler reported.

The country’s defense secretary Delfin Lorenzana said on Wednesday that the vaccines used by the soldiers were “smuggled” into the country, adding that that he had no information on the source of the vaccines, Rappler reported.

Philippine’s Bureau of Customs said on Tuesday that if the vaccines are proven to have been brought into the country illegally, officials involved could face administrative and civil charges, according to Rappler.

“If the PSG commander was not concerned with his action in vaccinating his men without approval of the president, FDA and Department of Health (DOH), then we truly have a huge problem.” Dr. Tony Leachon, former adviser of the government’s pandemic task force, told Caixin.

Contact reporter Chen Lixiong (takehiro.masutomo@caixin.com), and editor Lu Zhenhua (zhenhualu@caixin.com) and Marcus Ryder (marcusryder@caixin.com)

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