Sinopharm COVID-19 vaccine distributor in PH denies giving unauthorized jabs to PSG

Ina Reformina, ABS-CBN News

Posted at Jan 22 2021 07:39 PM

MANILA — Sinopharm’s COVID-19 vaccine distributor in the country on Friday said it was not the source of the coronavirus vaccines given to the Presidential Security Group (PSG) members last year, which has drawn public criticism as the inoculations were unauthorized. 

During Friday’s Senate hearing on the government’s national COVID-19 vaccination program, lawyer Mark Kristopher Tolentino, MKG Universal Drugs Trading Corporation president and CEO, said the firm, as Sinopharm’s distribution arm in the Philippines, has yet to begin its vaccine importation. 

This was in response to Sen. Risa Hontiveros’ question on what MKG is doing to address any possible illegal entry of Sinopharm’s COVID-19 vaccine in the Philippines.

“We received a letter from FDA (Food and Drug Administration) giving us opportunity to explain about the issue of vaccine smuggling, particularly about Sinopharm’s vaccine, and we responded after 6 days, and we categorically denied all the allegations because, in the very first place, based on our records, we never import or distribute Sinophram as of the present,” Tolentino explained. 

He added that the firm complied with all of the requirements last year, starting with the registration at the Securities and Exchange Commission and the Bureau of Customs, among others. 

“We just got [a] license to operate from FDA. We have no personal information on that,” he said, referring to the supposedly smuggled COVID-19 vaccines from Sinopharm. 

Tolentino also pointed out that MKG has already launched an investigation on the reported smuggling of Sinopharm vaccines into the country. 

In a televised speech in December, President Rodrigo Duterte revealed that some members of the Armed Forces of the Philippines (AFP) had already been vaccinated with Sinopharm’s COVID-19 vaccine. 

“Sabihin ko, marami na magpa-injection dito sa Sinopharm… I have to tell the truth. Marami nang nagpatusok and lahat, up to now, wala akong narinig for the select few — not all soldiers, hindi pa kasi policy,” Duterte had said. 

(A lot has already been vaccinated with Sinopharm’s vaccine, but not all soldiers were vaccinated because it is not yet the policy.)

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Interior Secretary Eduardo Año and the military later confirmed that PSG personnel were among those inoculated. This, while no COVID-19 vaccine has been approved for use in the Philippines.

Before vaccines could be imported, pharmaceutical firms need to obtain an emergency use authorization (EUA) from the FDA, which will allow the administration of the still under-development COVID-19 vaccines to the population despite incomplete phase 3 clinical trial results.