Up to NBI to include Mon Tulfo in probe on use of unauthorized COVID-19 vaccine, DOJ says

Robie de Guzman   •   February 25, 2021   •   458

Special Envoy to China Ramon Tulfo

MANILA, Philippines – Department of Justice (DOJ) Secretary Menardo Guevarra said he will leave it to the National Bureau of Investigation (NBI) to decide on whether to include special envoy to China Ramon Tulfo in its ongoing probe on the alleged illegal inoculations of COVID-19 vaccines in the country.

Tulfo earlier admitted that he was administered last year with Sinopharm COVID-19 vaccine, which is still unregistered in the Philippines.

“I do not dictate upon the NBI as to how it should conduct its investigation. I will leave it to the NBI to determine if it’s necessary or relevant to invite Ramon Tulfo to shed light on the matter,” Guevarra said in a message to reporters on Wednesday, February 24.

Guevarra earlier directed the NBI to conduct a probe into the alleged importation, entry, sale, distribution, and administration of COVID-19 vaccines that are not authorized by or registered with the Food and Drug Administration.

He also ordered the agency “to file appropriate charges against all persons involved and found responsible for any unlawful act” in connection with the matter.

According to the DOJ chief, the NBI has yet to submit a report about its investigation.

“I have no info on whether the NBI has in fact completed its probe; that’s why I’m asking for a progress report,” he said.

Guevarra earlier said that a private person who voluntarily agrees to be inoculated with an unregistered vaccine is answerable only to himself.

But a higher sense of ethical responsibility is demanded of a public officer who is expected not only to follow but also to uphold the law, he added. – RRD (with details from Correspondent Dante Amento)

Bulk of COVID-19 vaccine deliveries expected to arrive in PH starting June — Galvez

Robie de Guzman   •   April 20, 2021

 

MANILA, Philippines – The Philippine government expects to receive the bulk of COVID-19 vaccine deliveries from June to August, which could speed up the country’s mass vaccination drive, vaccine czar Secretary Carlito Galvez Jr. said.

In his report to President Rodrigo Duterte during a meeting in Malacañang on Monday, Galvez said they are expecting around 10 to 15 million vaccine doses by August.

Galvez also reported that he has secured five contracts with different drug makers and that the financing schemes are currently being ironed out.

These firms include Sinovac, AstraZeneca, Moderna, Novavax, and Gamaleya Institute, he said, adding that Johnson & Johnson already received an emergency use authorization (EUA) for its Janssen COVID-19 vaccine from the Food and Drug Administration (FDA).

“‘Yong Sinovac, ito ang pinaka-steady supply natin at saka po ‘yong Gamaleya. Pagka nagkaroon na tayo ng initial delivery, magiging steady na,” he said, adding he expects Moderna and AstraZeneca to also make their vaccine deliveries soon.

For this quarter, the government is eyeing to receive two million doses of COVID-19 jabs. Around 500,000 vaccine doses of these will come from Sinovac, 20,000 doses from Gamaleya and 195,000 doses from Pfizer through the COVAX facility.

Philippine Ambassador to Russia Carlos Sorreta said at least 20,000 doses of Gamaleya Institute’s Sputnik V vaccine will be delivered in the next few days.

According to Galvez, the Sputnik V vaccine doses will be a mini rollout as the Russian pharmaceutical company conducts testing in the Philippines.

Galvez also reported that once the bilateral agreements are completed, Pfizer could make an early delivery of 2.4 million doses in the second quarter.

“And then sa May mayroon tayong ini-expect na four million; two million po sa Sinovac. Ito nabayaran na po ‘to natin, mahal na President, ‘yong 3.5 million na 1.5 million sa April at saka two million sa May,” he told the Duterte.

The vaccine czar also disclosed that the Philippine government expects to sign a contract with Gamaleya on Tuesday after ordering around one to two million doses from the Russian drug manufacturer.

Galvez added that he is also looking at getting 194,000 doses from Moderna.

The Philippines has so far vaccinated over one million Filipinos against COVID-19.

Some 965,960 healthcare workers have received the first doses of the jab. There are 132,948 senior citizens and 180,315 persons with co-morbidities who also received the shot.

DOJ reiterates law enforcers should not interfere with community pantries

Aileen Cerrudo   •   April 20, 2021

MANILA, Philippines—The Department of Justice (DOJ) has reiterated that law enforcement agents should not interfere with anyone doing good deeds which include setting up community pantries.

In a statement, DOJ Secretary Menardo Guevarra said a law enforcer should also not question individuals involved in community pantries unless they are violating laws.

“Suffice it to say that a person voluntarily doing an act of kindness and compassion toward his neighbor should be left alone,” he said.

“It is not proper for law enforcement agents to interrogate him unless there is reason to believe that he is violating any law, ordinance, rule, or regulation for the good or welfare of the community,” he added.

However, Guevarra refused to comment if police authorities violated the privacy act in gathering information about the organizers of community pantries. He also clarified that organizers are not required to fill out forms.

“Organizers of community pantries have no legal duty or are under any compulsion to fill out any forms, as these are not considered business, much less illegal activities,” he said. AAC (with reports from Dante Amento)

20K Sputnik V COVID-19 vaccine doses to arrive in PH ‘in next few days’ – envoy

Robie de Guzman   •   April 20, 2021

 

MANILA, Philippines – Around 20,000 doses of Sputnik V COVID-19 vaccine developed by Russia’s Gamaleya Institute are expected to be delivered within the next few days, the Philippine ambassador to Russia announced Tuesday.

“My understanding is that we have complied with their requirement because they would not deliver unless they are satisfied with our logistics,” Ambassador Carlos Sorreta said during a Palace briefing.

Sorreta said the initial batch of Sputnik V vaccine doses would be used to “fine-tune” logistics to ensure that the vaccines’ temperature requirement will be met.

Sputnik V vaccine needs to be stored at a temperature of -18 degrees Celsius.

Sorreta also reported that an additional shipment of nearly 500,000 doses will arrive in the Philippines before end of April or early May.

“Over the next few months, we’re going seven figures, about 20 million doses before the end of the year,” he said.

“I think there will be delivery as scheduled based on the agreement signed by (vaccine czar) Secretary (Carlito) Galvez,” he added.

Galvez earlier said that the government is expecting to receive 20 million doses of Sputnik V this year.

Sorreta said the delivery of Sputnik V vaccines to the Philippines took a while due to some issues that needed to be addressed.

“We are happy about this development, although it took a while. It was unavoidable. The FDA, ginagawa nila ang kanilang trabaho ngunit merong konting differences sa terminologies, sa technologies so that those have been overcome,” he said.

He also expressed optimism that the Philippines will get the vaccine supply that the government requires to meet its target inoculation despite the global supply shortage.

“We have to be cognizant of the realities, the demand is very high for the vaccine and the best we can do it to try to lock in the supplies,” he said.

“Of course, we have to manage expectations. There could be problems in production. Many things can come up,” he added.

The country has so far received over 3 million COVID-19 vaccine doses made by Sinovac and AstraZeneca firms. More than 1.4 million of these doses have been administered to healthcare workers, senior citizens and persons with co-morbidities.

The government rolled out its COVID-19 vaccination program on March 1 and is targeting to inoculate 70 million people this year.

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