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House to tackle bill on mandatory COVID-19 vaccination

Delon Porcalla - The Philippine Star
House to tackle bill on mandatory COVID-19 vaccination
Rep. Elpidio Barzaga Jr. of Cavite, chair of the House committee on natural resources, disclosed in an interview over radio station dzBB yesterday that the House committee on health, whose chairperson is Quezon Rep. Helen Tan, gave assurance it would hold the hearing soon.
Boy Santos , file

MANILA, Philippines — Congressional deliberations on the proposed measure compelling Filipinos to have themselves vaccinated against COVID-19 will start soon as the country tries to contain the pandemic’s more contagious Delta variant.

Rep. Elpidio Barzaga Jr. of Cavite, chair of the House committee on natural resources, disclosed in an interview over radio station dzBB yesterday that the House committee on health, whose chairperson is Quezon Rep. Helen Tan, gave assurance it would hold the hearing soon.

“When I talked to her (Tan), she said it (proposed measure) will be set for hearing these coming months, either this month or early next month,” he said, referring to House Bill 9252 which he authored.

HB 9252 was filed by Barzaga for purposes of attaining “herd immunity” for 100 million Filipinos, based on the “general welfare” clause of the 1987 Constitution which states that government is mandated to protect its citizens.

Under the proposed measure, “no persons who are covered by this Act, as determined by the Department of Health, shall be allowed to enter, convene or occupy public places, whether or not government or privately owned.”

He said the bill has to be enacted into law because the country will definitely need a “drastic” measure to counter vaccine hesitancy among Filipinos – a stumbling block to the government’s pandemic response efforts.

But the bill exempts persons with medical conditions – as determined by the DOH or by a licensed medical doctor – from mandatory inoculation against COVID-19.

His bill confronts the issue of “choosiness” among Filipinos when it comes to vaccine brand, which he said is “aggravating the problems of LGUs (local government units).”

“In order to safely achieve herd immunity, a substantial proportion of a population would need to be vaccinated. This would lower the overall amount of virus able to spread in the whole population,” Barzaga said.

“It’s not easy to enact a law unless it has been certified as urgent by the President. We hope that we will be able to finish this before the end of the 18th Congress (in June 2022) because our problem is elections is just around the corner, and we might run out of time,” he said.

But discussions on the measure are urgent as Metro Manila will be placed under a lockdown again from Aug. 6 to 20 in a bid to curb the spread of the highly transmissible Delta variant of COVID-19.

Acknowledging the challenges to the vaccine rollout, Barzaga said that when the country’s supply of vaccines is sufficient, “perhaps that will be the time that the law will be effective and provide for mandatory vaccination.”

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