The Manila city government said on Friday, July 2, that the Sinovac COVID-19 vaccine doses allegedly being sold by a nurse in Gat Andres Bonifacio Memorial Medical Center (GABMMC) were not from its stockpile.
GABMMC acknowledged on Friday reports of the arrest of its nurse Alexis Francisco de Guzman on Thursday, July 1, by the National Bureau of Investigation (NBI) over the fraudulent scheme.
“Vaccines that are allegedly being sold are not sourced from the supply of the Manila Health Department. These COVID-19 vaccines are highly regulated and highly controlled by the local government unit (LGU),” Manila public information office chief Julius Leonen told reporters in a Viber message on Friday.
It added that Mayor Isko Moreno has ordered GABMMC director Dr Ted Martin to probe the incident and to file administrative charges against De Guzman.
“Harapin niya ang kanyang kaso sa husgado (He should face the case in court),” Moreno said, asserting that the unauthorized sale of COVID-19 vaccines is illegal.
The GABMMC, in a statement on the same day, also insisted that De Guzman was never part of the team that was involved in the handling of the life-saving jabs.
“Our vaccination team is composed of dedicated medical and administrative personnel who have always ensured that each dose is fully accounted for,” it said.
“[De Guzman’s] actions have placed the name of this institution in a bad light and we are very willing to cooperate with any investigating authority regarding such a matter,” the hospital added.
The latest “vaccine for sale” controversy was not the first time a fraudulent scheme hounded local government units’ COVID-19 immunization efforts.
In May, controversy arose following reports that some people claiming to have connections with the city governments of Mandaluyong and San Juan were offering vaccine slots to netizens in exchange for a fee.
Even before the government kicked off its legal inoculation drive in March, reports of illegal vaccinations of people close to President Rodrigo Duterte had already cast a shadow over the national government’s pandemic response.
In May, Moreno signed an ordinance which prohibited any person or entity from engaging in the sale, distribution, or administration of COVID-19 vaccines for profit.
Violators face a P5,000 fine and imprisonment of up to six months.
As of June 28, Manila has already partially vaccinated over 440,000 people against COVID-19, or 55% of its target population. – Rappler.com