Leila files bill seeking free COVID vaccine to all Filipinos

Published December 13, 2020, 12:53 PM

by Hannah Torregoza 

Opposition Sen. Leila de Lima has filed a bill seeking to provide free COVID-19 vaccines to all Filipinos.
De Lima, in filing Senate Bill No. 1942 or the Libreng Bakuna Kontra COVID-19 Para sa Lahat ng Pilipino Act, reiterated the need to safeguard the health of Filipinos by allocating funds and mandating the country’s health system to offer the vaccines free of charge.

Senator Leila de Lima

“Anticipating the arrival of these vaccines subject to trials and local evaluation soonest, this representation believes the need to guarantee free vaccination for all Filipinos whose right to health should not be diminished by belatedly acting on the health crisis,” De Lima said.
As hopes grow for the early arrival of the vaccines in the country, she said the government must be prepared and guarantee people safe and efficient distribution of the vaccine especially the priority and vulnerable sectors of society.
“It cannot be overemphasized: Vaccine coverage is as important as vaccine efficacy,” she stressed.
De Lima noted the government’s vaccination plan “leaves much to be desired” despite the Executive branch’s report about its continued negotiations with pharmaceutical companies for at least 14 specific COVID-19 vaccines for local use.

Vaccine czar Secretary Carlito Galvez had earlier said the government is targeting to vaccinate 60 to 70 percent of the country’s population, with elderly citizens, frontliners, and those included in the vulnerable sectors to be prioritized in the immunization program.
But Galvez also claimed that the country would now have to fight for the remaining percentage of future COVID-19 vaccine supplies as rich countries had already procured 80 percent of the global market.
De Lima, however, said this should not be an excuse for a delayed response in securing vaccine supplies since there are new suppliers of COVID-19 vaccines with equally good efficacy rates that have already emerged.
“A concrete plan of action that will universally promote the right of all Filipinos to health is vital in winning this battle against COVID-19,” she said.
“A vaccination plan that is inclusive will be an instrument to create herd immunity in a country of more than 100 million.”

De Lima said the bill also provides informed consent to allow persons to choose which accredited COVID-19 vaccine to receive and the institutions from which to receive them.

The measure likewise mandates the creation of a database to ensure the tracking of vaccination recipients in case of problems that may arise after the administration of the vaccines.