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Senate to probe gov’t COVID-19 vaccine plans on January 11

Metro Manila (CNN Philippines, January 4) — Senators will open an investigation on January 11 on the government’s COVID-19 vaccination plan, Senate President Tito Sotto said on Monday.

But Sotto said he will need to consult his peers if the issue of the immunization of President Rodrigo Duterte’s close-in security personnel can be included in the discussion or another hearing will be scheduled for it.

“The original question of the hearing is ‘Bakit wala pa tayong vaccine? Kailan at paanong i-distribute at paano storage?’ samantalang ang issue nilaBakit meron vaccine ang iba,’” he said in a text message. “Baka (Maybe) next time if we need to.”

[Translation: The original question of the hearing is “Why do we still have no vaccine? How and when will this be distributed and how will these be stored?” while their issue is “why do others have vaccine?”]

On December 28, Armed Forces of the Philippines spokesperson Maj. Gen. Edgard Arevalo said members of the Presidential Security Group, who are tasked to primarily protect the President, already got vaccinated against COVID-19, but he did not disclose what vaccines were used and how they were administered.

Duterte earlier claimed in a weekend address that many Filipinos, including some military men, already got shots of the still-unregistered vaccine developed by China’s Sinopharm.

Sotto questioned these claims and asked if there are laboratory reports to prove that such drug has been administered.

Paano nila nalaman? Ni-lab test ba nila? Eh kung anti-flu pala yun, illegal ba yun?,” Sotto asked, even as the PSG’s commander, Brig. Gen. Jesus Durante III, himself admitted publicly that the security group’s members received COVID-19 vaccines in September and October.

[Translation: How did they know? Is there a laboratory test? What if its anti-flu, is that illegal?]

Defense Secretary Delfin Lorenzana said the vaccines used were smuggled in small batches to escape authorities’ notice. The matter is already being investigated by the Food and Drug Administration and the Bureau of Customs.

The National Bureau of Investigation’s Special Action Unit has been also assigned to look into the matter.

The FDA already allowed Janssen Pharmaceuticals Company of Johnson & Johnson to hold the first COVID-19 vaccine clinical trial in the country. Chinese vaccine manufacturers Sinovac Biotech and Clover Biopharmaceutical have also applied, but are still completing their documents.

Meanwhile, no vaccine has been issued yet with emergency use authorization in the country.

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