Gov't mulls filing of cases vs 3 'spurious' local vaccine distributors

Three companies may face criminal complaints for alleged involvement in the unauthorized distribution of coronavirus vaccines in the country, according to vaccine czar Carlito Galvez Jr.

Presidential Peace Adviser Carlito Galvez Jr., chief implementer of the National Task Force (NTF) on COVID-19 (NTF AGAINST COVID-19 / MANILA BULLETIN)

Authorities have launched an investigation into three "spurious" local distributors allegedly misrepresenting vaccine manufacturers and offering supplies to some local government units, Galvez bared Tuesday, March 30.

The latest probe comes on the heels of President Duterte's stern warning against the sale of fake or smuggled coronavirus vaccines in the country.

"May tatlo kaming companies na pinaimbestigahan kasi we record check kung saan sila nanggagaling, and we found out na hindi sila authorized ng mother company ng mga vaccine (We have three companies under investigation because we record check where they came from and we found out they are not authorized by the mother company of the vaccines)," Galvez said during a virtual press briefing Tuesday.

"We believe they are not authorized. And with that, nakikita namin medyo spurious ang kanilang pagpasok dito (we see their entry as quite spurious) and even offering it to different lgus," he added.

Asked if cases will be filed against these companies, Galvez said: "Yes, definitely if we found some merits of filing these cases considering that they misrepresent the companies."

With the probe on the alleged illegal vaccine distribution, Galvez appealed to vaccine manufacturers to police their ranks "so we can assure that our dealings will be on top of the table.” He said vaccine procurement must also be within the purview of the Republic Act 11525 or the COVID-19 Vaccination Program Act of 2021 signed by the President last February.
Local government units have also been alerted to stay vigilant about groups offering vaccine supplies. Any negotiations with vaccine suppliers should be coursed through the government, Galvez added.

"We made a nationwide alert with the lgus that if they will conduct negotiations with the different vaccine companies, it should be properly coordinated with us," Galvez said.

"We have the wherewithal and also we have the agencies like the intelligence community that can really locate and look at the records and the company profile of these companies that will be possibly putting at risk, selling what we call fake and illegal, and smuggled illegal vaccines," he added.

In a televised address Monday, the President has allowed the private sector to import coronavirus vaccines "at will" but warned against selling fake drugs in the country. 

The President vowed that any group distributing fake vaccines would suffer the consequences. He said they should not cause more suffering to Filipinos who are already struggling during the pandemic.

The Food and Drug Administration (FDA) earlier cautioned the public against buying alleged coronavirus vaccines online since these were probably fake.

FDA Deputy Director-General, Dr. Oscar Gutierrez, in a recent virtual forum,  said there were still no legitimate vaccines sold in the market. At present, the government administers vaccines to qualified recipients in the vaccination sites designated by the Department of Health.