MANILA – A lawmaker at the House of Representatives on Tuesday said the release of the implementing rules and guidelines for the Covid-19 Vaccination Program Act of 2021 (Republic Act No. 11525) is imperative now to provide clarity as to how the private sector can procure vaccines.
In a statement, Albay Rep. Joey Salceda said the issue regarding the indemnification fund is only a peripheral topic, considering that the vaccines have been proven to be safe and effective.
Salceda was reacting to President Rodrigo Duterte’s statement that the government could not assume liability for all Covid-19 vaccines purchased by the private sector.
“President Duterte’s statement on indemnification should be taken only in the context of the law he signed, Republic Act No. 11525. The law sets a PHP500 million indemnification fund that the President can terminate. This hedges us from unwarranted fiscal risks,” he said.
Salceda said setting an unlimited indemnification fund sends a very bad signal that the manufacturers can send vaccines of whatever quality to the country, and so the wisdom in the law is that the fund is limited.
“We cannot give pharmaceutical companies a blank check on the risks of the vaccine. I strongly believe that the vaccines are safe and effective. But that is a guarantee that pharmaceutical providers will also have to give us,” he said.
Salceda urged the government, the media, and civil society to work together to explain the vaccines from a fair and objective standpoint to boost vaccine confidence.
He, meanwhile, expressed hope that a “who-wants-it-can-get-it” approach to vaccination can be pursued once more vaccines arrive so that doses won’t be wasted.
“Of course, due prioritization should be done, but I expect some in the priority groups to opt not to be vaccinated. We should vaccinate those who are willing and next in line,” he said.
He also stressed that training local governments and large private-sector employers would be crucial.
“We will benefit immensely from teaching these entities how to communicate the vaccines as a topic, how to handle and store them, and how to navigate the vaccination process. I expect the DOH [Department of Health] to be on top of this need,” he said.
In his weekly address Monday night, Duterte said he found “holes” under the indemnity clause in vaccine procurement contracts that require the government to assume liability for private sector-procured vaccines.
“The government cannot guarantee much less give you an immune status na (that) you are freed of any and all liability. I think we cannot even do that even if we wanted to yung assumption of liability,” he said in a pre-recorded public address.
He said his reason for raising reservations is because the government would be prevented from going after vaccine manufacturers.
“In the first place hindi atin ‘yan, ngayon kung nagka letse letse ‘yan (it’s not ours so if there are problems like) mishandling or for whatever reason it is not as effective as advertised then they will go after against whom? Ang gusto ng mga manufacturers na ang private sector magbili, ang gobyerno mag assume ng liaibility. Hindi ho puwede yung ganun. May malaking butas diyan actually (Manufacturers want the private sector to buy them and government to assume liability. That cannot be the case. There’s a huge hole there). Assumption of liability na ganun (like that),” he added. (PNA)