Health Secretary Francisco Duque III said on Friday, Jan. 22, that the Philippine Health Insurance Corporation (PhilHealth) will shoulder all the medical expenses of people who will suffer serious reactions from COVID-19 vaccines.
Duque, PhilHealth’s ex-officio chairman, said this will be an alternative measure should Congress fail to enact the indemnification law to compensate those who will experience adverse side effects following their immunization.
“Pwede po nating talagang pag-aralan ito na siguraduhin natin na kung saka-sakaling hindi pa matuloy yong indemnification fund legislation (We can really look into this to make sure if ever the indemnification fund legislation will not push through)…Ganon pa man ang PhilHealth naman ang sasagot naman kung may mga matinding side effects (Nevertheless, the PhilHealth will shoulder the expenses if there will be grave side effects),” the Department of the Health (DOH) said during the Senate’s third hearing on the government’s vaccination plans Friday, January 22.
“No-balance billing is the objective,” he added.
Before this, Senator Joel Villanueva said the PhilHealth should also have benefits packages for the treatment of potential effects of the coronavirus vaccines.
“Sana huwag na itong i-charge doon sa (I hope we would not charge it from the) existing case rates because if you do that, it will create another set of anxiety and [worry] doon sa ating mga kababayan (among our countrymen),” he said.
“Kung libre po ang bakuna, libre din dapat ang pagpapagamot ng anumang adverse side effect nito. Saklaw rin po dapat ng universal health insurance ang pagpapabakuna, para wala na talagang dahilan hindi magapabakuna (If the vaccines are free, the treatment for its side effects should also be free of charge. The universal health insurance should also cover vaccination, so there would be no reason for people to have themselves vaccinated),” he said.
“I think this is something that we should be looking into and I believe that we need this guarantee comfort to encourage our people to get jabs,” he also appealed.
Despite his commitment, Duque, still asked the senators to accommodate and pass an indeminification bill to prepare for any adverse post-immunization events.
“Sana po wala, pero hindi po natin masabi dahil bago po ang bakunang ito (I hope there will be none, but we cannot ascertain because this is still a new vaccine). Anything is possible, but we will make sure that we will be careful in the administration of these vaccines,” he said.
Earlier, he said people who have been vaccinated will be asked to stay in the vaccination sites within 30 minutes to one hour so that health workers could immediately respond and treat them should there be serious side effects.
These will also be studied to determine whether or not the vaccines caused the reactions, he said.
National Task Force against COVID-19 chief implementer and vaccine czar also said in a separate House hearing that the indemnification measure is also a requirement for the Philippines to secure vaccine supplies from the COVAX facility.