Three persons, including a registered nurse and medical technologist, were arrested by the National Bureau of Investigation (NBI) on Wednesday for allegedly selling Sinovac COVID-19 vaccines in Quezon City.
The NBI Task Force Against Illegal Drugs identified the suspects as Alexis de Guzman, a registered nurse in a hospital in Manila; Harjit Kour Gonzales Singh, a medical technologist; and Calvin Roca.
A fourth suspect was still at large, the NBI said Friday.
Seized from the suspects was an icebox with 300 doses of Sinovac’s CoronaVac worth P840,000 during an operation in Amoranto Street, Quezon City. The suspects were selling the vaccines at P4,150 for the first and second dose.
Manila Mayor Francisco “Isko Moreno” Domagoso confirmed that De Guzman was assigned to a Manila hospital. Domagoso said that maybe De Guzman knew it was illegal to sell the vaccines in Manila, so he sold it to people in another city.
Domagoso said that fortunately for the city, the confiscated vaccines did not come from Manila’s supply.
“The good news is, so far, the initial report, it’s not from us (Manila),” said Domagoso.
The Department of Health (DOH) on Friday reiterated its warning that COVID-19 vaccines are not for sale.
Health Undersecretary Maria Rosario Vergeire said she was “sad” to hear of the incident.
“Why did we need to reach a point like this where people are taking advantage of what we have right now?” Vergeire said in a press briefing.
Identification cards from the City government of Manila, a Manila hospital, and Professional Regulation Commission (PRC) of De Guzman were also confiscated from the suspect.
The arrested persons were brought to the Department of Justice earlier in the day for appropriate documentation and filling of cases for violation of the Food and Drug Administration Act.
“Three weeks ago, we received a report [that] there’s a group of people who are selling vaccines to the public. We used undercover agents during the surveillance and undercover work at this group was offering thousands of vaccines,” NBI TFAID chief Ross Jonathan Galicia said.
The NBI said the suspects usually sell the vaccines to Philippine Offshore Gaming Operators (POGO) workers.
“[They’re cooperating.] They already named the personalities involved but we’re not yet ready to divulge [the identities of the] subjects because we’re going to conduct a follow-up,” Galicia said.
“This cannot happen because it will damage the government’s program to vaccinate everyone fairly or equally,” Galicia added.
Vergeire urged the public to only get a COVID-19 vaccine only through the government and not through other channels.
“Don’t buy from other people because they can’t access vaccines because it is just national government which can access these vaccines for now,” she said.
“Even a single dose lost through these means is already a big deal to us,” Vergeire added.
A supposed COVID-19 vaccine selling scheme was exposed in May when an alleged seller surrendered and denied speculations circulating on social media.
The Philippines has so far received over 17 million doses, with 7.5 million individuals vaccinated as of June 27.