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President Duterte shows a vial containing the Sinovac vaccine, which arrived in the country a day after the Chief Executive signed the vaccine indemnity law. (Screen grab RTVM)

Duterte signs vaccine indemnity law

President Duterte has signed the COVID-19 Vaccination Program Act of 2021 that creates a National Vaccine Indemnity Fund to cover those who might suffer from any adverse side effects after getting inoculated by a COVID vaccine. 

The law is urgently needed for the release of COVID-19 vaccines to the Philippines. 

The new law also facilitates the acquisition of vaccines by local government units (LGUs) and the private sector. 

President Rodrigo Roa Duterte signs into law the Coronavirus Disease 2019 (COVID-19) Vaccination Program Act of 2021 at the Malacañang Golf (Malago) Clubhouse in Malacañang Park, Manila on February 26, 2021.

It also mandates the issuance of vaccination cards by the Department of Health (DOH), LGUs and private entities to those who have been inoculated. 

The indemnification fund, initially at P500-million, will be used to compensate for any death or severe adverse effects as a result of any vaccine administered. 

The law contains a provision that absolves vaccine manufacturers from liabilities that may arise from the vaccinations. 

Some vaccines that are now being distributed globally, such as Sinovac, are still in phase 3 clinical trials and administered under emergency use authorization (EUA) issued by governments. 

The P500 million will come from the Contingent Fund of the 2021 General Appropriations Act. It will augment existing funds of the Philippine Health Insurance Corp. (PhilHealth) which was tapped as administrator of the indemnity fund. 

A special task group consisting of medical and vaccine experts will monitor the probable adverse effects that may arise after the administration of the vaccines. 

Under the law. the national government, LGUs and the private sector will be authorized to procure vaccines through the National Task Force and the DOH. 

LGUs will likewise be allowed to directly procure ancillary supplies and services necessary for the storage, transport and deployment of the vaccines. 

A number of LGUs have been preparing for the rollout of their respective vaccination programs before the enactment of the bill so they can be exempted from legal requirements, including advancing substantial down payments. 

Another provision of the law is the exemption of the purchases and importations of these from taxes and duties, including customs duties, value added tax, excise tax, donor’s tax and other fees and charges. 

Vaccination cards will be issued by the DOH, LGUs and private companies to individuals who have been vaccinated. 

The vaccine card will be updated eventually to conform with globally accepted standards. 

Senators said with the new law, the executive branch will have no more excuses in fast-tracking the procurement and rollout of vaccines. 

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