Gov’t giving vaccine makers shield from suits illegal, warns Drilon
The government cannot grant absolute and blanket immunity to vaccine makers for any injury to people caused by their vaccines, as it is against the law and contrary to public policy, Senate Minority Leader Franklin Drilon said on Thursday.
Drilon supported statements made by Secretary Carlito Galvez Jr., who handles vaccine procurement for the Duterte administration, that the government cannot agree to full immunity for vaccine manufacturers, even though the newly passed COVID-19 Vaccination Program Act carries indemnification clauses.
“The government cannot extend blanket immunity to vaccine manufacturers as it is against the law and contrary to public policy,” Drilon said in a statement.
He clarified that Senate Bill No. 2057 grants COVID-19 vaccine makers immunity from suits for claims arising out of the administration of vaccines, but not for willful misconduct or gross negligence.
The enrolled version of the measure was transmitted to Malacañang on Wednesday evening for the President’s signature, according to Senate President Vicente Sotto III.
The indemnification clause was reportedly demanded by the US pharmaceutical company Pfizer in its negotiations with the Philippine government for supplies of its COVID-19 vaccine.
Drilon earlier hinted that vaccine manufacturers set the condition to avoid a possible repeat of the controversy that hounded the French pharmaceutical giant Sanofi Pasteur in the dengue vaccination program.
Galvez told senators that some vaccine makers demanded full immunity, but said he had told them that the government could not give them that because of concerns over malpractice and willful misconduct.
Drilon cited Section 8 of the the proposed Vaccine Program Act, which provides that “public officials and employees, as well as all persons in the private sector who are authorized to carry out the COVID-19 vaccination program shall be immune from suit and liability under Philippine laws upon all claims resulting from the use of a vaccine under the COVID-19 vaccination program, except those arising from willful misconduct and gross negligence.”
A former justice secretary, Drilon said that any vaccine recipient can file claims for damages, based on the 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.
According to the senator, the approved COVID-19 Vaccine Program Act provides for an indemnity fund.
This fund, he said, aims to compensate citizens who may suffer any adverse events, such as death, permanent disability and hospital confinement after being inoculated under the government’s vaccination program.
The proposed law allots P500 million out of the President’s P13 billion contingency fund for the COVID-19 National Vaccine Indemnity Fund, which will be administered by Philippine Health Insurance Corp.
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