Absolute, blanket immunity for vaccine makers not possible, says Drilon

Published February 25, 2021, 5:15 PM

by Mario Casayuran

Senate Minority Leader Franklin M. Drilon said the government cannot grant absolute and blanket immunity to vaccine manufacturers, saying “it is against the law and contrary to public policy.”

Senator Franklin Drilon (Senate of the Philippines / MANILA BULLETIN)

Drilon supported vaccine czar Secretary Carlito Galvez who earlier said that the government could not agree to a full immunity for vaccine manufacturers.

Galvez revealed late Wednesday that there are vaccine makers that demand full immunity but said the government could not do so out of concerns over malpractices and willful misconduct.

“Under the COVID-19 Vaccination Program Act Congress passed last February 22, COVID-19 vaccine manufacturers are immune from suits for claims arising out of the administration of the COVID-19 vaccine, but not for willful misconduct or gross negligence,” Drilon said.

Section 8 of the said measure provides that “notwithstanding any law to the contrary, public officials and employees, contractors, manufacturers, volunteers, and representatives of duly authorized private entities who are duly authorized to carry out and are actually carrying out the COVID-19 vaccination program shall be immune from suit and liability under Philippine laws with respect to all claims arising out, related to, or resulting from the administration or use of a COVID-19 vaccine under the COVID-19 vaccination program except arising from willful misconduct and gross negligence.”

“The government cannot extend a blanket immunity to vaccine manufacturers as it is against the law and contrary to public policy,” he emphasized.

The former justice and executive secretary explained that any vaccine could file claims for damages, based on the vaccine manufacturers liabilities arising from willful misconduct and gross negligence.

“It is part of their individual and private rights that cannot be set aside by the government,” he said.

The Supreme Court has defined gross negligence as “negligence characterized by the want of even slight care, or by acting or omitting to act in a situation where there is a duty to act, not inadvertently but willfully and intentionally, with a conscious indifference to the consequences, insofar as other persons may be affected.” Willful misconduct, on the other hand, exists where the acts “were impelled by an intention to violate the law, or were in persistent disregard of one’s rights, as evidenced by a flagrantly or shamefully wrong or improper conduct”.

Drilon said that the approved measure provides for an indemnity fund.

“The government set up the indemnity fund to compensate any person inoculated through the vaccination program. The indemnity fund will take care of the costs for deaths, permanent disabilities and hospital confinements caused by vaccination”, Drilon said.]       The measure likewise earmarked P500 million of the President’s P13 billion Contingent Fund for the COVID-19 National Vaccine Indemnity Fund.

It will be administered by the  Philippine Health Insurance Corporation  (PhilHealth).

Drilon said the COVID-19 Vaccination Program Law would not only expedite the purchase and administration of vaccines but also sets aside money to secure the interest of the people against unforeseen effects thereof.