‘Safety not guaranteed’: DOH eyes probe into bootleg COVID-19 vaccines

ABS-CBN News

Posted at Jan 30 2021 11:02 PM

MANILA—The Department of Health on Saturday said it is coordinating with the Food and Drug Administration following reports of COVID-19 vaccines being offered to Filipinos on the black market. 

In an interview on ABS-CBN’s Teleradyo, Health Undersecretary Maria Rosario Vergeire said she was dismayed that bootleg vaccines were available locally, and said these were unsafe to use. 

Vergeire explained that the purpose of an emergency use authorization (EUA) was to ensure that vaccines would only be procured by the national government to prevent private inoculation. 

“Kung sakaling may nag-aalok po sa kanila, mag-ingat po sila kasi baka nanggaling iyan sa black market at hindi nila masisiguro kung talagang authentic iyang bakuna na iyan,” she said.

(People should be careful when offered with a COVID-19 vaccine from the black market, because no one can guarantee its authenticity.) 

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She added that the health department would have a hard time monitoring the vaccine’s side effects in an individual inoculated with an unauthorized or smuggled brand. 

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“ ’Yun lang mga tao nailista nating official, at mabibigyan ng bakuna ng gobyerno ang ating mamo-monitor. Sila nakaka-receive ng kung saan-saang sources, baka hindi natin sila mabantayan du’n sa mga reaksyon na maaaring mangyari sa kanila," she said. 

(We can only monitor the side effects in people who officially received the vaccine from the government. We cannot monitor the side effects in those who received it from other sources, hence, we do not know what will happen to them.) 

Some people can also take advantage of the illegal vaccine sale for profit, instead of safety. Filipinos should only get their vaccines from their local governments, she said. 

Under the FDA law, the importation, sale and administering of unregistered vaccines should result in a penalty of a fine or imprisonment, but health officials earlier said they do not have information yet to hold anyone accountable.

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“Puwede nila presyuhan ng mas malaki. They would take advantage sa takot ng mga tao at kasabikan sa mga bakuna. Kaya nga po kailangang mag-ingat, du’n lang po tayo kumuha dito sa mas bibilhin ng gobyerno na opisyal,” Vergeire said. 

(They can sell it at a higher price and they can take advantage of the people's fear or anticipation of the vaccines. We should be careful, and we should get our vaccines officially from the government.)

A report earlier this month revealed that some 100,000 Chinese workers in Philippine offshore gaming operators (POGO) have already been vaccinated even though the FDA has yet to certify the sale and distribution of any COVID-19 drug in the country.

The PSG also acknowledged receiving unapproved vaccines, which the group allegedly self-administered last year.