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Duterte signs vaccine indemnity law
The COVID-19 Vaccination Program Act of 2021 also expedites the procurement of vaccines by local government units (LGUs) and the private sector, and mandates the issuance of vaccination cards by the Department of Health (DOH), LGUs and private entities to those who have been inoculated.
AFP/Joel Saget

Duterte signs vaccine indemnity law

Christina Mendez, Paolo Romero (The Philippine Star) - February 27, 2021 - 12:00am

MANILA, Philippines — President Duterte signed into law last night the bill that sets up a government indemnity fund of at least P500 million for those who may be adversely affected by the vaccination, a requirement urgently needed to allow the release of COVID-19 vaccines to the Philippines.

The COVID-19 Vaccination Program Act of 2021 also expedites the procurement of vaccines by local government units (LGUs) and the private sector, and mandates the issuance of vaccination cards by the Department of Health (DOH), LGUs and private entities to those who have been inoculated.

Sen. Bong Go provided to the media photos of Duterte signing the bill passed by the Senate and House of Representatives in speedy proceedings earlier this week.

The National Vaccine Indemnity Fund will also be established to compensate any individual inoculated through the vaccination program, in case of death or for the treatment of possible severe adverse effects.

It also contains a provision freeing vaccine makers from liabilities that may arise from the vaccinations as the inoculations now being distributed globally are still being tested in phase 3 trials – or on large segments of populations – and are dispensed under emergency use authorization (EUA) issued by governments.

A total of P500 million sourced from the Contingent Fund of the 2021 General Appropriations Act is authorized to augment the existing funds of the Philippine Health Insurance Corp. (PhilHealth) as administrator of the indemnity fund.

A special task group composed of medical and vaccine experts with proven track record will be established to monitor the probable adverse effects that may arise after the administration of the vaccines.

Sen. Sonny Angara, principal sponsor of the measure, said the fund will cover the indemnification agreements with vaccine manufacturers, which the National Task Force (NTF) has started fulfilling.

The national government, LGUs and the private sector will be authorized to procure vaccines through the NTF and the DOH under the law.

LGUs will also be authorized to directly procure the ancillary supplies and services necessary for the storage, transport and deployment of the vaccines.

A significant number of LGUs have started preparing for the rollout of their respective vaccination programs and are waiting for the enactment of the bill in  order to exempt them from legal requirements, including putting in large down payments, regarding the procurement of goods.

Among the laws covered by the exemption are Republic Act 9184 or the Government Procurement Reform Act, Presidential Decree 1445 or the Government Auditing Code of the Philippines, and the Local Government Code.

The procurement of vaccines will also be done in cooperation with the DOH and NTF, through a multiparty agreement.

The law, however, also contains a provision – authored by Sen. Francis Tolentino – that the unusual tripartite procurement is only temporary and would not amend sales and donor laws that concern only two parties.

Another provision of the bill that will help bring in more vaccines and other critical supplies to the country is the exemption of the purchases and importations of these from taxes and duties, including customs duties, value added tax, excise tax, donor’s tax and other fees and charges.

Vaccination cards will be issued by the DOH, LGUs and private entities to individuals who have been vaccinated, a provision put in by Senators Pia Cayetano and Grace Poe.

Poe said called for uniform format for the vaccine card, which shall be updated accordingly to always conform with globally accepted standards.

Senators on Wednesday said with the passage of the bill, the executive branch should have no more excuses to make in case of procurement and rollout of vaccines.

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