NBI now looking into use of unregistered COVID-19 vaccines

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Metro Manila (CNN Philippines, January 2) — The National Bureau of Investigation’s Special Action Unit has been assigned to look into the use of unregistered COVID-19 vaccines in the country.

This is the same unit that investigated the “pastillas” bribery scheme in the Bureau of Immigration, Justice Secretary Menardo Guevarra noted in a statement on Saturday. More than 80 Immigration personnel have been suspended, many of them now facing complaints before the Office of the Ombudsman.

Guevarra earlier said the probe will zero in on the "reported unauthorized distribution and administration of unregistered anti-COVID 19 vaccines" and see what laws were violated. He however clarified that it does not mean to single out the controversial vaccination of members of the Presidential Security Group.

“The NBI investigation is rolling,” the Justice chief said.

Two agencies, the Food and Drug Administration and the Bureau of Customs, are investigating the entry into the country of the vaccines that were administered to President Rodrigo Duterte’s security personnel. The vaccination apparently happened as early as September, but was made known to the public only on December 26 when the President himself announced that China-made Sinopharm was used on members of the military. This was later clarified as referring only to PSG members.

Defense Secretary Delfin Lorenzana has called the vaccines "smuggled" since no coronavirus vaccine has been authorized by the FDA yet. PSG head Jesus Durante III said it was a matter of "national security" as his group had to protect the President's health.

Under the FDA Act, those who import, sell, or distribute any unregistered health products may face imprisonment or monetary fines. The law does not penalize the person who was injected with the unregistered vaccines, but charges await those who import, sell, distribute, and dispense the drugs.