Gov't urged to set up vaccine indemnification program

Recognizing valid concerns over the launch and use of new vaccines in this time of pandemic, BHW partylist Rep. Angelica Natasha Co has called on the government to set up a vaccine indemnification program that will help protect and compensate individuals, particularly the poor. who suffer from any vaccine-related injuries or any unexpected adverse events resulting from vaccination. 

(Joe Raedle / Getty Images / AFP / FILE PHOTO / MANILA BULLETIN)

The member of the House Committee on Health cited the need to implement a system for vaccine-related injury indemnification to serve as "a fair, efficient, and stable mechanism”  for individuals to obtain compensation upon the occurrence of verified vaccine-related adverse events without need to attribute fault or negligence on vaccine manufacturers or suppliers. 

“The warnings and lessons from the current pandemic must be heeded. Putting in place a vaccine-related injury indemnification system that will be embedded in the public immunization program will help protect and compensate the most marginalized and vulnerable sectors of society from any unanticipated adverse events resulting from vaccination. Such a system will build mutual trust and foster closer collaboration among the relevant stakeholders within the healthcare system,” she said in filing House Bill No. 7480, the proposed Vaccine Indemnification Fund Act of 2020. 

Co’s HB No. 7480 calls for the creation of the Government Vaccine Indemnification Fund, which shall be subsidized by pharmaceutical companies that supply government with vaccines for public immunization programs. 

The bill requires the pharmaceutical companies participating in public tenders and are awarded government contracts for the supply of such vaccines to reserve at least one percent of the contract price, which shall form part of  the proposed Fund. 

Co said the reserved amount shall be deposited with the Bureau of Treasury of the Department of Budget and Management (DBM).

“The Fund shall be earmarked exclusively to compensate and indemnify identified vaccine recipients who sustain injury in connection with the use of the vaccines, and where the adverse effects are attributable to the vaccination,” she said. 

Co said the Fund shall be managed by the seven-man Vaccines Compensation Board to be chaired by the  Secretary of the Justice. 

“Having this vaccine-injury compensation scheme will remove apprehension and reluctance on the part of manufacturers and suppliers of ensuring adequate supply of vaccines over threats of possible court cases for liability and the associated negative media coverage,” Co said. 

"On the other hand, this system will provide a fair, efficient, and predictable remedy for the injured parties,” she added. 

HB 7480 provides that the amount needed for the initial implementation of the proposed Act shall be charged against the appropriations of the Department of Health (DOH) in the current and subsequent General Appropriations Act. Thereafter, the amount needed for the continued implementation of the proposed Act shall be taken from the proposed Indemnification Fund, the bill said.

“In case the Fund, after careful assessment and projected utilization, shall be insufficient to answer for potential claims, the DOH shall subsidize such amount in the supplemental budget to be included in the annual General Appropriations,” Co said. 

Within six months from the approval of the proposed Act, the DOJ, DOH, DBM, and the Department of Finance (DOF), in coordination with other implementing agencies, shall formulate the implementing rules and regulations for the proper implementation of the proposed Act. 

“With the prospects of the availability and the eventual supply of essential vaccines in the country in response to the current pandemic by various pharmaceutical companies and the likely occurrence of similar public health crises in the future, there is an urgent necessity for government to anticipate valid concerns over the introduction and use of new vaccines. We must be prepared now,” Co said in pushing for the passage of her bill.