‘Blanket immunity’ to vaccine makers would go vs law, public policy–Drilon
MANILA, Philippines — Granting “blanket immunity” to vaccine manufacturers would go “against the law and contrary to public policy,” Senate Minority Leader Franklin Drilon said Thursday.
“The government cannot extend a blanket immunity to vaccine manufacturers as it is against the law and contrary to public policy,” Drilon, a former justice secretary, said in a statement.
This, as the minority leader, backed vaccine czar Sec. Carlito Galvez, who said the government cannot agree to a full immunity for vaccine manufacturers.
Galvez earlier disclosed that there are vaccine makers who demand full immunity but said the government cannot do so out of concerns over malpractices and willful misconduct.
“Under the COVID-19 Vaccination Program Act Congress passed last February 22, COVID-19 vaccine manufacturers are immune from suits for claims arising out of the administration of the COVID-19 vaccine, but not for willful misconduct or gross negligence,” Drilon pointed out.
He cited Section 8 of the bill, which states that “notwithstanding any law to the contrary, public officials and employees, contractors, manufacturers, volunteers, and representatives of duly authorized private entities who are duly authorized to carry out and are actually carrying out the COVID-19 vaccination program shall be immune from suit and liability under Philippine laws with respect to all claims arising out, related to, or resulting from the administration or use of a COVID-19 vaccine under the COVID-19 vaccination program except arising from willful misconduct and gross negligence.”
But Drilon noted that any vaccine recipient can file claims for damages, based on the vaccine manufacturer’s liabilities arising from willful misconduct and gross negligence.
“It is part of their individual and private rights that cannot be set aside by the government,” he said.
The Supreme Court, according to Drilon, has defined gross negligence as “negligence characterized by the want of even slight care, or by acting or omitting to act in a situation where there is a duty to act, not inadvertently but willfully and intentionally, with a conscious indifference to the consequences, insofar as other persons may be affected.”
Willful misconduct, on the other hand, exists where the acts “were impelled by an intention to violate the law, or were in persistent disregard of one’s rights, as evidenced by a flagrantly or shamefully wrong or improper conduct,” he noted.
The vaccine bill, which is now up for President Rodrigo Duterte’s signature, provides for an indemnity fund to compensate inoculated individuals who would experience adverse side effects.
“The government set up an indemnity fund to compensate any person inoculated through the vaccination program. The indemnity fund will take care of the costs for deaths, permanent disabilities, and hospital confinements caused by vaccination”, Drilon said.
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., which will manage the indemnity fund.
The proposed vaccine law will not only expedite the purchase and administration of vaccines “but also sets aside money to secure the interest of the people against unforeseen effects thereof,” according to the senator.
Vaccines from the World Health Organization-led Covax facility were supposed to be the first to arrive in the country in mid-February, but their delivery was stalled by issues regarding the indemnification agreement.
The government and World Health Organization are now waiting for the indemnity agreements with Pfizer-BioNTech and AstraZeneca, which are needed to finalize the delivery of the vaccines through Covax.
Meanwhile, 600,000 doses of the vaccine developed by China-based Sinovac are expected to arrive on Sunday.
Subscribe to our daily newsletter
Subscribe to INQUIRER PLUS to get access to The Philippine Daily Inquirer & other 70+ titles, share up to 5 gadgets, listen to the news, download as early as 4am & share articles on social media. Call 896 6000.