Poe pushes use of COVID-19 vaccine cards for int'l, domestic travels

Senator Grace Poe is seeking to expand the coverage of COVID-19 vaccine cards to further ease mobility for fully-vaccinated individuals.

An airport employee takes a selfie while receiving a coronavirus vaccine at the Ninoy Aquino International Airport on June 2, 2021. (Ali Vicoy/MANILA BULLETIN)

Poe recently filed Senate Bill No. 2321 to amend the COVID-19 Vaccination Program Act of 2021 (Republic Act No. 11525) and expand the objectives of vaccine cards.

“Now that we are once again about to enter a two-week hard lockdown, we need to have a recovery plan for the economy to keep businesses from closing and more people from losing jobs in the pandemic,” Poe said in a statement Monday, August 2.

In filing the bill last July 21, Poe said the vaccine cards will be turned "from being a purely informative record to a recognized document which a fully vaccinated individual can use as a requirement abroad or domestic travel."

This includes access to business establishments and public places, and other privileges, as may be allowed under the regulations of the Inter-Agency Task Force (IATF) on the Management of Emerging Infectious Diseases.

"This measure is no way making vaccination compulsory," Poe, however, clarified in the the bill.

Under the RA 11525, vaccine cards only serve as record of the administration of COVID-19 vaccine to an individual, and "shall not be considered as an additional mandatory requirement for educational, employment and other similar government transaction purposes."

In Poe's SB 2321, the vaccine cards may be used for, but not limited to "international travel, as may be required by foreign jurisdictions"; and "ease of domestic travel, as may be allowed under IATF regulations".

During the Senate's deliberation of the COVID-19 Vaccination Program Act, contentions were raised about the "discriminatory" effect of the use of vaccine passports, since such entails mobility. Later, the chamber agreed to rename the immunization certificate and use vaccine cards instead.

But Poe said that by providing such privileges, overseas Filipino workers (OFWs) may use the vaccine cards as proof for inoculation to travel for employment.

“Our OFWs have kept our economy afloat in the pandemic, and yet we are making it harder for them to make a living by requiring two different documents that serve the same purpose,” she explained.

"In a way, the privileges also encourage more individuals to have themselves vaccinated," Poe also noted.

Over 9.1 million individuals in the Philippines have been fully-vaccinated against the novel coronavirus.