Lower House sets deliberation for mandatory COVID-19 vaccination bill

After passing two important public health measures, the House oF Representatives has set congressional deliberation on the proposed measure providing for mandatory vaccination against the 2019 coronavirus disease (COVID-19) for each Filipino.

Anti-COVID19 vaccines

Authored by Cavite Rep. Elpidio Barzaga, House Bill No. 9252 is set to be discussed by the Committee on Health even as Barzaga underscored the significance of the measure in fighting the spread of COVID-19, especially the more deadly and easily transmissible Delta variant.

Last week, the Lower House passed bills proposing to create a virology research institute and authorizing the Department of Health to stockpile strategic and critical drugs, medicines and other medical supply to address public heatlh emergencies.

This developed as ACT-CIS Partylist Representative Rowena Niña Taduran appealed to concerned government officials to help out in vastly promoting awareness and a more organized vaccination procedure.

Barzaga disclosed that committee chairperson and Quezon Rep. Angelina Tan has vowed to open hearings on HB 9252 either this month or early next month to expedite its passage.

The legislative proposal seeks to amend Republic Act No. 11525 or “An Act Establishing the Coronavirus Disease 2019 (COVID-19) Vaccination Program Expediting the Vaccine Procurement and Administration Process, Providing Funds Therefor, And For Other Purposes" by making it mandatory for persons who are eligible to get the COVID-19 vaccination as determined by the Department of Health.

While admitting that it will be more difficult to have the measure approved now as the election fever starts to set in, Barzaga remains hopeful that the bill will be enacted before the end of the 18th Congress next year.

“It's not easy to enact a law unless it has been certified as urgent by the President," he said during a radio interview on Sunday, August 1.

Barzaga, chairman of the House Committee on Natural Resources, said enactment of the measure is important as the country will have to rely on “drastic” measures to address vaccine hesitance.

The senior administration lawmaker stressed that refusal of many Filipinos to have themselves vaccinated against the deadly virus has served as a major drawback in efforts of the government to achieve herd immunity and thus, stop the spread of the virus.

Under the bill, "no persons who are covered by this Act, as determined by the DOH, shall be allowed to enter, convene or occupy public places, whether or not government or privately owned." Persons with medical conditions as determined by the DOH or by a licensed medical doctor shall be exempted from the inoculation of COVID-1 vaccine, the bill said.

Barzaga said discussions on the measure is urgent as Metro Manila will be placed under a lockdown again from August 6 to 20 to curb the spread of the virus' highly transmissible Delta variant.

Meanwhile, Taduran lamented the low turn out of senior citizens in vaccination centers.

“I don’t believe there’s a massive vaccine hesitancy in Filipinos. The problem lies in the lack of supply and vaccinators and the vaccination process is mostly disorganized,” she said.