Philippines military to quiz Duterte guards over ‘smuggled’ vaccine

Philippines military to quiz Duterte guards over ‘smuggled’ vaccine
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Philippine President Rodrigo Duterte. (REUTERS)
Philippines military to quiz Duterte guards over ‘smuggled’ vaccine
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Philippines President Rodrigo Duterte reviews military cadets during change of command ceremonies of the Armed Forces of the Philippines (AFP) at Camp Aguinaldo in Quezon City, metro Manila, Philippines October 26, 2017. (REUTERS file photo)
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Updated 02 January 2021

Philippines military to quiz Duterte guards over ‘smuggled’ vaccine

Philippines military to quiz Duterte guards over ‘smuggled’ vaccine
  • Security unit in firing line amid anger over unauthorized inoculations

MANILA: The Philippines military will investigate the inoculation of soldiers from President Rodrigo Duterte’s security team with coronavirus vaccines smuggled into the country, an armed forces spokesman confirmed.

News of the special unit being vaccinated has caused anger among the public as the Food and Drug Administration (FDA) has not approved any COVID-19 vaccine for use in the country.

The armed forces chief, Gen. Gilbert Gapay, has denied having any prior knowledge of the vaccination.

“Gen. Gapay has ordered a thorough investigation into the circumstances surrounding this incident,” Marine Maj. Gen. Edgard Arevalo, the military spokesman, said late on Thursday.

Duterte revealed in a televised meeting with the Inter-Agency Task Force for the Management of Emerging and Infectious Diseases earlier this week that some soldiers had already received vaccine doses developed by China’s Sinopharm.

After the president’s revelation, Defense Secretary Delfin Lorenzana admitted that the vaccines were “smuggled.”

“Yes, smuggled, because it’s not authorized to enter here. Only the government can authorize that through the FDA,” Lorenzana said on Wednesday.

He said that the actions of the presidential guards was “justified.”

Presidential Security Group (PSG) commander Brig. Gen. Jesus Durante said that the security guards had “independently” inoculated themselves to reduce the risk of infecting Duterte.

He added that the matter was kept secret even from Lorenzana.

FASTFACT

Presidential Security Group commander Brig. Gen. Jesus Durante said that the security guards had ‘independently’ inoculated themselves to reduce the risk of infecting President Rodrigo Duterte.

However, the PSG has come under fire from experts and lawmakers questioning the vaccine’s safety and legality.

The Department of Justice, Bureau of Customs, and the FDA are set to investigate how the vaccine entered the country.

Under the Food, Drug and Cosmetic Act, any new drug “should have authorization from the FDA based on an application containing the full reports of investigations.”

Senate Minority Leader Franklin Drilon on Thursday said that the PSG commander should appear before a Senate committee looking into the rollout of coronavirus vaccines in the country.

“The most important ‘who’ and ‘how’ of the story remain a mystery. The PSG commander is deliberately ignoring the basic questions of who and how from the public,” Drilon said.

“Who else was involved? How did unregistered COVID-19 vaccines enter the country? Who imported it from China?” he asked.


UK vaccine team shifting focus to new variant threat

Prof. Robin Shattock, head of the vaccine team at Imperial, said scientists will now use the ribonucleic acid (RNA) technology behind the initial vaccine to target new and emerging coronavirus variants. (Shutterstock/File Photo)
Prof. Robin Shattock, head of the vaccine team at Imperial, said scientists will now use the ribonucleic acid (RNA) technology behind the initial vaccine to target new and emerging coronavirus variants. (Shutterstock/File Photo)
Updated 9 min 26 sec ago

UK vaccine team shifting focus to new variant threat

Prof. Robin Shattock, head of the vaccine team at Imperial, said scientists will now use the ribonucleic acid (RNA) technology behind the initial vaccine to target new and emerging coronavirus variants. (Shutterstock/File Photo)
  • Scientists worldwide scrambling to target emerging mutations with ‘exciting technology’

LONDON: Scientists at Imperial College London have abandoned testing of their coronavirus vaccine to focus on combating emerging variants of the virus detected around the world.

The decision comes as the scientific community scrambles to get ahead of the new threat, which could require updated inoculations.

Prof. Robin Shattock, head of the vaccine team at Imperial, said scientists will now use the ribonucleic acid (RNA) technology behind the initial vaccine to target new and emerging coronavirus variants.

“Although our first generation vaccine candidate is showing promise in early clinical development, the broader situation has changed with the rapid rollout of approved vaccines,” he said in a statement on Tuesday.

“It is not the right time to start a new efficacy trial for a further vaccine in the UK, with the emphasis rightly placed on mass vaccination in response to the rapid spread of the new variant.”

Shattock said his team would develop the new vaccine technology as “a safety net to catch escaped mutations, reach variants that other vaccines may not, and meet potential needs for annual booster vaccinations.”

The Imperial vaccine uses the same design as the Moderna and Pfizer/BioNTech jabs. It employs self-amplifying RNA to force an immune reaction from the body, producing vital antibodies and T-cells that offer protection.

The vaccine’s initial trials came last summer as scientists around the world raced to develop the first effective jab.

However, with the UK and many other countries successfully moving forward with mass vaccine rollouts, Imperial and other top teams have decided to change course.

The technology used in the Imperial jab can be adapted to target new variants and mutations of coronavirus. This could fast-track the development of updated vaccines as the pandemic worsens in some parts of the world.

The Imperial team has also found methods to store new RNA vaccines in standard refrigeration for months, where current vaccines require expensive ultra-low temperature storage.

Shattock said: “Imperial College is working with philanthropists, investors, government and industry partners to take this exciting technology further.”

The UK government will continue its support for Imperial’s self-amplifying RNA technology as part of its anti-coronavirus policy.

Prof. Alice Gast, president of Imperial, said: “The self-amplifying RNA vaccine has much to offer in the fight against coronavirus and other diseases.

“This exciting technology will help accelerate future vaccine production, providing the agility to defend against viral mutations, and protect current and future generations from pandemics.”