Duterte signs measure to expedite vaccine program, set indemnity fund

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Metro Manila (CNN Philippines, February 26) — President Rodrigo Duterte has signed into a law a measure that aims to speed up procurement and administration of COVID-19 vaccine.

This was confirmed Friday by Duterte's former special assistant Senator Bong Go, and Presidential spokesman Harry Roque.

"Indeed, we remain committed in our fight against the coronavirus pandemic, and we are using necessary means, such as the enactment of this Republic Act, certified urgent by the President, as a way to start our vaccine rollout," Roque said in a statement.

The COVID-19 Vaccination Program Act of 2021 also allocates ₱500 million for the COVID-19 National Vaccine Immunity Fund to compensate vaccinees who may experience serious side effects or die after inoculation.

The Philippine Health Insurance Corporation will handle the fund, which will be sourced from the contingent fund.

The Department of Health will also issue vaccine cards that will contain basic information about the individual, manufacturer and brand of the vaccine received, date it was administered, date of last swab test, where the vaccination took place, and the name of the health professionals who gave the vaccine.

Under the new law, local government units and the private sector will be allowed to purchase doses through multilateral agreement with the Department of Health, the National Task Force, and the vaccine supplier. 

LGUs will be also allowed to give an advance payment of up to 50%, and to directly purchase ancillary supplies for the storage, transportation, and deployment of vaccines.

The law also gives immunity to public officials and employees, contractors, manufacturers and volunteers who are duly authorized to carry out the vaccination program from suit, unless it is based on willful misconduct or gross negligence.

The measure was approved by Congress earlier this week. The House of Representatives adopted the Senate version of the measure just hours after it was transmitted to them by the upper chamber.

Go said section 14 of the law requires concerned agencies to formulate the implementing rules and regulations within five days from its effectivity. In the absence of an IRR, provisions of the law will still be implemented after publication.

The government aims to buy around 140 million doses of COVID-19 vaccines to immunize up to 70 million Filipinos this year.