COVID-19 vaccine bill now up for Duterte’s signature
MANILA, Philippines — A bill seeking to speed up the procurement and administration of COVID-19 vaccines in the country and establish an indemnity fund now only needs the signature of President Rodrigo Duterte.
This, after the House of Representatives, adopted the Senate’s version of the proposed Covid-19 Vaccination Program Act of 2021.
During the House session on Tuesday, the lower chamber approved a motion to adopt Senate Bill No. 2057 as an amendment to House Bill No. 8648, passed on Monday.
With the House’s concurrence with the Senate bill, a bicameral conference committee will no longer be needed to reconcile the disagreeing provisions of the chambers’ respective versions of the measure.
Under Senate Bill No. 2057, the national government, local government units (LGUs) and the private sector will be authorized to procure COVID-19 vaccines through the National Task Force Against COVID-19 (NTF) and the Department of Health (DOH).
LGUs, on the other hand, will be allowed to directly procure the ancillary supplies and services necessary for the storage, transport, and deployment of the vaccines.
The measure will also exempt LGUs from certain provisions of the existing procurement laws.
Among the laws covered by the exemption are the Government Procurement Reform Act, the Government Auditing Code of the Philippines, and the Local Government Code.
“The bill will provide legal cover to the LGUs, many of which have intimated to us their concern about possible adverse findings by the Commission on Audit and even graft cases that may be filed against their officials,” Senator Sonny Angara, sponsor of the bill, said in a statement.
A significant number of LGUs have started preparing for the rollout of their respective vaccination programs and are waiting for the bill’s enactment to exempt them from the legal requirements regarding the procurement of goods, the senator noted.
For the private firms, their procurement of Covid-19 vaccines will be done in cooperation with the DOH and NTF through a multiparty agreement.
Meanwhile, a national indemnity fund will be established under the bill to compensate any individual inoculated through the Covid-19 vaccination program, in case of death or for the treatment of possible severe adverse effects.
The bill authorizes a P500-million augmentation, sourced from the Contingent Fund of the 2021 national budget to the existing funds of the Philippine Health Insurance Corp. (PhilHealth), which will manage the indemnity fund.
“The indemnity fund will cover the indemnification agreements with the vaccine manufacturers, which the NTF has started fulfilling. This removes one major stumbling block to the delivery of the vaccines to the country,” Angara said.
According to the senator, another provision of the bill seen to help bring in more Covid-19 vaccines and other critical supplies to the country is the exemption of its purchases from taxes and duties.
Under the bill, the DOH, LGUs and private entities will be required to issue “vaccine cards” to individuals who have been inoculated.
The cards will contain basic information about the individual; the manufacturer and brand of the vaccine administered; the date of vaccination; the date of last RT-PCR testing; and the facility’s names where the vaccine was received and the health professionals who administered the vaccine.
Senator Francis Tolentino introduced an amendment to the bill ensuring that the “vaccine card” to be issued by LGUs will not be considered a mandatory requirement in educational, employment, and similar government transaction purposes.
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