Vaccine indemnity fund bill certified as ‘urgent’

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IN what appears to be an earnest effort to boost confidence among Filipinos hesitating to be inoculated, President Rodrigo Duterte certified as ‘urgent’ a proposed bill seeking to establish a vaccine indemnity fund.

Likewise certified as urgent is the proposal to fast-track the procurement of vaccines amid the COVID-19 pandemic.

In a press briefing, vaccine czar Secretary Carlito Galvez Jr. said that these bills — Senate Bill No. 2057 and House Bill No. 8648 — have already been signed by the President as urgent.

“Pinirmahan na po ng ating mahal na Pangulo ang pagsertipika ng panukalang batas as urgent. Nag-usap po kami kanina, kasama po si Senator Bong Go, at magandang balita po na talagang napirmahan niya na po ‘yung mga Senate bill na makakatulong po sa atin,” he said.

SB 2057 seeks to expedite the purchase and rollout of COVID-19 vaccines and establish a P500-million indemnification fund, while House Bill 8648 seeks to authorize local government units (LGUs) to give advance payments for COVID-19 vaccines.

Amid bills certified as urgent, both chambers may fast-track its passage that would allow 2nd and 3rd reading of the proposed bills ratified on the same day.

Galvez earlier hinted at the absence of an indemnification agreement as the reason behind the delay of the vaccine deliveries under the COVAX facility.

COVAX facility is a global effort aimed at providing access to COVID-19 responses, including vaccines, led by the World Health Organization (WHO), Gavi Vaccine Alliance, and the Coalition for Epidemic Preparedness Innovations.

WHO representative to the Philippines Dr. Rabindra Abeyasinghe on Thursday said vaccine makers expect governments to fund the indemnification agreement since the COVID-19 vaccines are still under emergency use authorization, meaning they are not for commercial use. 

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