The House of Representatives on Tuesday passed on second reading the bill proposing to expand the mandatory immunization program for all life stages in a bid to further strengthen disease prevention efforts of the government.
In an “ayes and nays: voting, the Lower House approved House Bill 8558 or the proposed “Mandatory Immunization Program Act” on second reading.
Final reading approval is expected next week.
The bill consolidated 11 separate legislative proposals that sought to amend Republic Act No. 10152 or the Mandatory Infants and Children Health Immunization Act of 2011.
Under the bill mandatory vaccination will be implemented for vaccine-preventable diseases that includes tuberculosis, diphtheria, tetanus, pertussis, poliomyelitis, measles, mumps, rubella or German measles, hepatitis B, human influenza type-B, rotavirus, Japanese encephalitis, pneumococcal conjugate vaccine (PCV), human papilloma virus (HPV); and booster for measles, rubella, tetanus, diphtheria (MRTD).
Dengue vaccine, which was mandatory for children in 2016, is not in the list.
HB 8558 provides for the creation of a National Immunization Technical and Advisory Group (NITAG) that will serve as a technical and independent multi=-disciplinary advisory body to the Department of Health on immunization and vaccine for all life stages.
The bill limits the authority of the Secretary of Health to determine other types of vaccine-preventable diseases by requiring the recommendation of the NITAG and presentation before a joint committee of Congress.
Under the bill mandatory immunization services for the vaccines may be included in the Philhealth benefit package.
Cavite Rep. Strike Revilla, who sponsored the bill during the plenary deliberations, noted that the Dengvaxia vaccination controversy placed the government’s vaccination program “in the spotlight”.
To address the Dengvaxia experience, Revilla said he proposed to clip the powers of the health secretary in determining vaccine-preventable diseases that should be included in the mandatory vaccination program.
Laguna Rep. Marilyn Alonte, also a principal author of HB 8558, the legislative measure underscores the need to implement an efficient and effective vaccination program to save lives and improve public health.
“Prevention is always better than cure, and this rings true to a child’s health,” said Alonte.