Avoid COVID-19 vaccines from black market, doctors warn
The sale of COVID-19 vaccines outside the government inoculation program feeds on the fear of not enough supplies arriving, prompting a group of doctors to warn the public against illegally sourced or counterfeit drugs.
Dr. Antonio Dans of the Healthcare Professionals Alliance Against Covid-19 (HPAAC) said the illegal sale of vaccines recently emerged in online chat groups, workplaces, and even in neighborhoods across Metro Manila.
“I’ve had patients asking me if they should already buy [a vaccine],” Dans said in an online conference on Monday.
The talk of vaccines already available raises the question where these vaccines come from, as they are being sold for at least P1,000. Whether this is the cost per dose is unclear.
HPAAC, which groups more than 160 health organizations, said this constituted a “black market” or a scam, since not a single vaccine had been registered with the Food and Drug Administration (FDA) for marketing or commercial distribution.
The FDA has granted emergency use authorization to only two vaccines so far—those of Pfizer and AstraZeneca—whose procurement and distribution should be made only through the national government.
Aside from the risk of getting a vial filled with water, a vaccine that did not go through the Department of Health’s Technology Assessment Council loses government “culpability” in case of adverse side effects, the doctors said in the online conference.
“It’s OK to enlist (for example on local government or company master list), but don’t pay,” Dans said.
He warned the public against buying vaccines from the black market, as these have not been proven safe, effective or even genuine.
“It can be a scam because you’re buying from people who are not authorized to sell vaccines,” he said.
Valenzuela Rep. Wes Gatchalian said there could be “an influx of unscrupulous individuals selling unregistered or, worse, fake vaccines” with the expected arrival of COVID-19 vaccines this month.
“We call on all cybercrime agencies of the government to be on the lookout for illegal and unregistered COVID-19 vaccines and pool their resources to apprehend opportunists who prey on the public,” Gatchalian said in a statement.
Gov’t priority list
HPAAC appealed to the public to stay with the national government’s priority list, which has health workers, elderly and people with comorbidities at the top.
Private companies are most likely to fall on the bottom tier or with the rest of the population, even if a private initiative has secured 17 million doses of the AstraZeneca vaccine through private donors and local governments.
Half of this supply shall go to the national government for its distribution.
HPAAC’s Dr. Aileen Espina called on the public to watch out for people who would jump the line to get shots.
“It is our duty and our responsibility to call out anyone who is cutting the line, to call out anyone who is not following the prioritization program of the government,” Espina said.
The vaccination program must be done according to the need and not the “capacity to pay” to ensure equitable distribution, HPAAC said.
Health Undersecretary Maria Rosario Vergeire, speaking at her daily briefing on Monday, said the priority list would be strictly followed.
“Nobody can jump the line because it is the national government that will give the authority if you can receive your doses already. We will inoculate first the priority sectors of the population,” Vergeire said.
—With reports from Dona Z. Pazzibugan and Nestor Corrales
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