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Mon Tulfo admits use of smuggled COVID-19 vaccine; now FDA and DOH want him investigated

By Camille Santiago Published Feb 24, 2021 2:24 am

Special envoy to China Ramon “Mon” Tulfo insists that there is nothing wrong with him getting inoculated with smuggled Sinopharm COVID-19 vaccines from China and for applying to be a distributor of the said vaccine.

In his newspaper column on Saturday, the media practitioner admitted that he already got vaccinated with two doses of China’s Sinopharm—the same batch that was used by the Presidential Security Group (PSG) personnel, a senator, and several other Cabinet-level officials.

“I now confess to the public: I had myself vaccinated—along with some government officials whose names I won’t mention here—with the Sinopharm vaccine last October,” he wrote.

His admission raised several concerns among the public, including how he got the vaccine and why he’s applying to become a distributor.

In an interview with One News, Tulfo denied the hosts’ claims that there is a conflict of interest of becoming a distributor of a China-made vaccine even if he's a special envoy to China. 

“None at all," he said. “Wala akong nakitang conflict of interest dito dahil private citizen naman ako. Besides ang special envoy to China is just an honorific. Ang trabaho nyan is one peso a year. I’m not a government official. If we become technical about it, I’m not a government official. Honorific yung titulo ko,” he explained.

He also said that he never used his position to secure the vaccine for himself and his bodyguards, but rather got it “from a friend who smuggled it into the country.”

“Kaya ko na isipan na magpabakuna kasi available sa market, although smuggled nga, kaya gusto kong maka-tiyak kung effective sa akin, malamang effective sa sambayanan,” the 74-year-old radio host and columnist said.

Currently, China’s Sinopharm is still not authorized for emergency use in the Philippines, nor has it submitted any application for such request.

Meanwhile, the Food and Drug Administration (FDA) and Department of Health (DOH) has also said that they will investigate the matter. 

In an online press conference on Wednesday, Health Undersecretary Maria Rosario Vergeire said, “‘Yung mga ganyan, katulad nyan may lumalabas pa rin na ibang tao na umaamin na nabakunahan sila, ito po ay makakasama sa investigation, and all of these things kapag nakita natin na hindi ayon sa mga batas na meron tayo dito sa ating bansa will be considered illegal.”

In another press briefing, FDA Director General Eric Domingo said they will relay this report to their regulatory enforcement unit to probe Tulfo’s unauthorized use of Sinopharm vaccine.

“Hindi po maganda na nalalaman natin na may ganitong pagpapabakuna na hindi dumadaan sa tamang proseso,” he also said.