Senator Ronald dela Rosa on Sunday thanked members of the Presidential Security Group (PSG) for allowing themselves to be guinea pigs by taking an unauthorized and smuggled COVID-19 vaccine from China.
“It’s not been established that the vaccine is effective because it hasn’t been approved by the Food and Drug Administration,” Dela Rosa said in Filipino in an interview on radio dzMM. “So let’s thank them for making themselves guinea pigs in that experiment.”
“If the results are goo, then thank you. If not, it will be too bad because they staked their lives for that vaccine,” he added.
PSG commander Brig. Gen. Jesus Durante III admitted members of the President’s close-in security had acquired the vaccines for free and said the President did not know about it until the inoculation was done.
He refused to say where the vaccines came from, but said he took full responsibility for the unauthorized use of an unregistered vaccine.
Dela Rosa even said he would be willing to get the vaccine even if it was not approved yet by the Food and Drug Administration.
He defended the PSG members, saying it was their personal decision to protect the President from contracting the coronavirus.
The National Bureau of Investigation (NBI), meanwhile, said it will start investigating the unauthorized importation and use of COVID-19 vaccines even as it has yet to receive the written order from the Department of Justice to do so, NBI Deputy Director Ferdinand Lavin said on Saturday.
"We already have the verbal order from the secretary. We have yet to receive the written order but we are ready to investigate," Lavin said in an interview on Dobol B sa News TV.
"There are already agents on standby in the next few days," he said.
Justice Secretary Menardo Guevarra ordered the NBI last week to look into unauthorized inoculations against COVID-19 using unregistered vaccines.
Guevarra said he gave the instruction on Monday to NBI officer-in-charge Eric Distor.
Two days before that, President Rodrigo Duterte revealed that some Filipino soldiers — they would later turn out to be members of the his security team—had been vaccinated against COVID-19 using a vaccine that has not been approved for use in the Philippines.
Defense Secretary Delfin Lorenzana said vaccines could be considered smuggled since they did not go through the Bureau of Customs and were not approved by the FDA.
Also on Sunday, Vice President Leni Robredo on Sunday called on the Duterte administration for greater transparency on the inoculation of members of the Presidential Security Group (PSG) using smuggled Chinese COVID-19 vaccines. She urged authorities to conduct an investigation into the early, unauthorized vaccination.
“There must be an investigation to send a strong message that we could not let this go on just like this,” she said in her Sunday weekly radio program.
She said the PSG's inoculation against COVID-19 triggered so many questions, such as who supposedly donated the vaccine and why it did not go through the Bureau of Customs, the Department of Health, and the Food and Drug Administration.
The PSG supposedly used the vaccine candidate of Chinese firm Sinopharm.
“We hope they would not fool the people. We hope that they are transparent because we do not want people to cast doubt [on the vaccination program]. That is where the problem lies. The confidence of the public must be high,” Robredo said.
Bagong Henerasyon party-list Rep. Bernadette Herrera, meanwhile, urged authorities to prepare for a possible proliferation of counterfeit COVID-19 shots amid the limited supply of genuine vaccines.
To guard against fake vaccine is part of the government’s duty to ensure public health and safety, she said.
“As we await the arrival of the much-awaited COVID-19 vaccines, ensuring that vaccines are authentic could emerge as an important issue,” Herrera said.
Counterfeiters could capitalize on the opportunity due to “mismatch of COVID-19 vaccine supply and demand,” she said.
She warned that the sale of counterfeit vaccines is a criminal activity that poses serious risks to public health and safety.
She called on the Department of Health, and the Food and Drug Administration to ensure the availability of affordable, safe and effective vaccines for Filipinos.
She urged authorities to distribute the vaccines properly once they become available.
“Proper distribution means we have to follow the guidelines on which area and sectors would be given COVID-19 shots first,” she said.