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One month after signing law on indemnity fund

Duterte says ‘illegal’ for gov’t to pay compensation for vaccine side effects

By: - Reporter / @KAguilarINQ
/ 10:02 AM March 23, 2021

MANILA, Philippines — Despite having recently signed a law establishing a P500-million indemnity fund as a salient feature in the government’s COVID-19 vaccine procurement program, President Rodrigo Duterte now said it is illegal for government to assume liability and be made to pay compensation to those who would suffer from the adverse effects of the vaccines procured.

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“Ang gusto ng mga manufacturers na ang gobyerno — ang private sector magbili, ang gobyerno ang mag-assume ng liability. Hindi ho puwede ‘yong ganoon,” Duterte said in a pre-recorded address aired on Monday night.

(The manufacturers want the private sector to buy, but the government will assume liability. This cannot be.)

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Duterte made the remarks even after the country’s vaccine czar Carlito Galvez Jr. explained that all contracts for the vaccine procurement have an indemnification clause.

“Sa lahat po ng kontrata, nakapirma po tayo ng indemnification clause at saka humihingi po sila ng indemnification just in case magkaroon po ng adverse effect. Iyong responsibility po na ‘yon, hindi po natin puwedeng mai-delegate sa private sector or sa LGU [local government units],” Galvez told Duterte.

(In all contracts, we signed an indemnification clause just in case an adverse effect comes up. We cannot delegate that responsibility to the private sector or the LGU.)

“Talaga po ‘yong national government ang pinanghahawakan po ng manufacturer na tayo po ang gusto nila kasi — considering that it’s still under clinical trial, kung magkaroon ng adverse effect, they will be immune (from) any liability or suit. So ang gobyerno po ang mananagot po,” the vaccine czar added.

(The manufacturers are holding on to the government, considering that the vaccines are still under clinical trial, they will be immune of any liability or suit if ever there is an adverse effect. The government will be responsible.)

Galvez said as he was asked by the President to explain allegations that the national government was blocking efforts of the private sector, and even the local government units to directly procure vaccines from drug manufacturers, and without signing a tripartite agreement with the national government.

Worldwide, no vaccine for COVID-19 has yet been approved for commercial use, and at best have only secured emergency use authorization (EUA) because of the ongoing clinical studies on the ever-mutating coronavirus.

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To expedite the procurement of vaccines amid the growing concern on the efficacy and safety of the vaccines vis-a-vis the dwindling global supply, the government established the P500-million indemnity fund as part of the COVID-19 Vaccination Program Act of 2021.

The indemnity fund establishes a mechanism to compensate any individual vaccinated against COVID-19, in case of death or possible adverse effects.

The Act also states that manufacturers and even representatives of private entities “shall be immune from suit and liability under Philippines laws with respect to all claims arising out of, 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 one month after signing the law, Duterte is seeing a loophole in the establishment of the fund.

“May malaking butas diyan, actually. Assumption of liability ng ganoon. Hindi, cannot be. Hindi ho puwede. Kaya sabihin mo sila sorry kasi sabi ni Rody hindi man talaga siya babayad because we are not allowed to sign any agreement to that effect na nandiyan nakalatag lahat,” he said.

(There’s a big hole there, actually on assumption of liability. No, this cannot be. Tell them sorry because Rody said he will not pay because we are not allowed to sign any agreement to that effect.)

“Tapos nandoon ‘yong payment and tapos nandoon ‘yong indemnification na gobyerno ang magbayad? Hindi. I do not think that it will be legal. Sabihin mo sa kanila, it’s illegal for us to do that. Ang makagawa lang niyan is Congress, wala nang iba,” he went on.

(Then there’s the payment and the indemnification that the government will pay? No. I do not think that it will be legal. Tell them, it’s illegal for us to do that. Congress is the only one that can do that, nobody else.)

Earlier, Pfizer-BioNTech COVID-19 vaccines from the World Health Organization-led COVAX facility were supposed to be the first to arrive in the country mid-February, but its delivery was stalled by issues on the indemnification agreement.

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TAGS: COVID-19 Vaccines, indemnity fund, President Rodrigo Duterte
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