With 22 affirmative votes, the Senate approved on third and final reading the bill that will expedite the government’s procurement and administration of COVID-19 vaccines to Filipinos.
Sen. Juan Edgardo “Sonny” Angara, chair and sponsor of Senate Bill No. 2057 or the proposed COVID-19 Vaccination Program Act of 2021, said the immediate passage of the measure into law would hasten the state’s vaccination program against the coronavirus to end the pandemic and jumpstart the country’s battered economy.
“The entire nation is eagerly awaiting for the start of the vaccination program that carries with it the promise of immunization from the COVID-19 virus that has caused so much hardship and pain to all Filipinos over the past year,” said Angara, who chairs the Senate Committee on Finance.
“With this measure, we hope to see the start of the inoculation of our population, starting with the priority sectors, at the shortest possible time,” he also said.
Once enacted, the national government, as well as local government units (LGUs) and the private sector will be authorized to procure the vaccines through the National Task Force Against COVID-19 (NTF) and the Department of Health (DOH).
LGUs would also be authorized to directly procure the ancillary supplies and services necessary for the storage, transport and deployment of the vaccines.
LGUs have been waiting for the enactment of the measure into law in order to be exempted from Republic Act 9184 or the Government Procurement Reform Act, Presidential Decree 1445 or the Government Auditing Code of the Philippines and the Local Government Code.
The measure also establishes a P500-million National Vaccine Indemnity Fund to compensate inoculated individuals in case of death or for treatment of possible serious side effects.
The P500-million fund would be sourced from the Contingent Fund of the 2021 General Appropriations Act (GAA) and would be funneled to the Philippine Health Insurance Corp. (PhilHealth) as the administrator of the indemnity fund.
The bill also seeks the creation of a special task group composed of medical and vaccine experts to monitor the probable adverse effects of the purchased COVID-19 vaccines.
“The indemnity fund will cover the indemnification agreements with the vaccine manufacturers, which the NTF has started fulfilling. This removes one major stumbling block to the delivery of the vaccines to the country,” he said.
The bill also exempts the COVID-19 purchases and importations from customs duties, value added tax, excise tax, donor’s tax and other fees and charges.
The measure also mandates the issuance of COVID-19 vaccination cards which could be digital or printed, to serve as a record of the inoculation completed by a vaccinee.