House approves vaccine indemnification fund

February 22, 2021

MANILA, Philippines — Voting 225 with six abstentions, the House of Representatives approved on third and final reading House Bill 8648 (Emergency Vaccine Procurement Act), which expedites vaccine procurement and allocates P500 million as compensation for persons who may suffer adverse effects of COVID-19 vaccines.

Lawmakers yesterday overwhelmingly voted in favor of the bill authored by Speaker Lord Allan Velasco and certified urgent by President Duterte. The measure allows local governments to purchase vaccines in advance, expediting the procurement process.

Local government units have been allowed to accept donations from the private sector or purchase an equivalent of 50 percent of their total population, but they are not authorized to buy from vaccine dealers except from direct manufacturers.

Meanwhile, the private sector has to deal with either the Department of Health or the National Task Force, for which such vaccines can only be administered to their employees and should not be sold commercially.

Public officials, employees, contractors, volunteers and representatives of the private sector will also be exempt from any liability should problems arise with regard to effects after the inoculation.

WHO safeguards solidarity trials

Meanwhile, World Health Organization (WHO) has put insurance safeguards for any adverse events during the Solidarity Vaccine Trials (SVT) conducted in the country in search of candidate COVID-19 vaccines.

Department of Science and Technology-Philippine Council for Health Research and Development (DOST-PCHRD) executive director Dr. Jaime Montoya said that while the SVT is voluntary, WHO has arranged for an insurance agreement with a provider, for any adverse events.

“Just in case there are adverse events, it will be immediately managed by our doctors, whether or not it’s related to the vaccine. If this is related to the vaccines according to a study by our experts, they can claim indemnity from the insurance agreement made by the World Health Organization,” Montoya said in Filipino.

He revealed that the SVT will involve 15,000 volunteers and 20 sites are being prepared as the WHO determines which vaccines will be included.

Senate amendments

As of press time, the Senate was still writing amendments to Senate Bill 2057, the counterpart proposal to the House measure.

Senate Minority Leader Franklin Drilon proposed an amendment that requires a tripartite agreement with government for the purchase and importation of COVID-19 vaccines.

Earlier in the day, Sen. Panfilo Lacson said the national government should treat the private sector as partners rather than competitors through over-regulation.

Senate President Vicente Sotto III stressed the need for government to focus on treatment and cure of COVID-19 while in the process of procuring the vaccines.

Sen. Francis Tolentino raised concerns on the so-called “vaccine passport” provision which he said could be used as another requirement for job application or entry to college or similar situations.

The bill’s principal sponsor Sen. Sonny Angara clarified that the vaccine card is purely an instrument to facilitate daily transactions. He said the provision suggesting incentives and benefits for those who have the card has already been removed. – Rainier Allan Ronda, Paolo Romero

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