President Rodrigo Duterte could be vaccinated with the COVID-19 vaccine made by China’s state-owned Sinopharm, which has been approved for “compassionate use” by the Food and Drug Administration (FDA), the Palace said Thursday.
“The Office of the President is studying whether the compassionate use license can be a basis for the [inoculation of the] President, who is the chief-of-staff of the Armed Forces of the Philippines, to get the Sinopharm vaccine,” presidential spokesman Harry Roque said.
The FDA earlier issued a compassionate use license for 10,000 doses for Sinopharm’s vaccine to some members of the Presidential Security Group (PSG).
The government has yet to receive the vaccines, however.
Duterte has expressed a preference for the Sinopharm brand, even though it has yet to obtain an emergency use authorization (EUA) from the FDA.
“The President can still opt to use Sinovac for the COVID-19 even though it is not recommended for senior citizens. So it’s up to the President if he wants to get the jab,” Roque said.
The Palace announced that 600,000 doses of the vaccine from Sinovac are expected to arrive on Sunday, Feb. 28.
Newspaper columnist Ramon Tulfo, who also served as Duterte’s special envoy to China, said on Feb. 20 that the President was able to talk to the “Sinopharm representative in the country” and even made a request for samples of vaccine shots for him and his family.
Roque, however, denied Wednesday that Duterte directly negotiated with Sinopharm.
He also said Tulfo was no longer a special ambassador to China, so he is not covered by the country’s anti-graft laws.
Roque made the remark after Tulfo admitted getting inoculated against COVID-19 with a smuggled vaccine and even considering putting up a Sinopharm distributorship in the country.
“I have no personal knowledge about what Mon Tulfo said, so I really cannot comment on something I don’t know anything about,” Roque said.
“But what is clear is that Mon Tulfo is no longer the special envoy to China and he is no longer covered by anti-graft laws,” he added.
Tulfo clarified that when he got the vaccine shot, his appointment as special envoy to China had expired.
The FDA and the National Bureau of Investigation are investigating the issue on the Sinopharm vaccination.
“The NBI has an ongoing investigation on the alleged importation, entry, sale, and administration of unregistered COVID19 vaccines in the underground market. 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,” Justice Secretary Menardo Guevarra said.
On Tuesday, the Palace distanced itself from Tulfo after the latter claimed he was vaccinated with smuggled doses of Sinopharm in October last year.
“We have no opinion whatsoever with regards to Mon Tulfo’s write ups.
The Duterte administration does not patronize smuggled products and the use of unregistered COVID-19 vaccines is not a government policy,” Roque said at the time.