Congress approves Covid-19 vaccination law

BOTH the Senate and the House of Representatives have approved a measure establishing a P500-million indemnity fund, and expediting implementation of the coronavirus disease 2019 (Covid-19) vaccination program.
The House on Tuesday night, February 23, 2021, adopted Senate Bill 2057, the Senate version of the measure, thus, doing away with a bicameral conference meeting.
President Rodrigo Duterte is expected to sign the measure into law as soon as the document reaches Malacañang.
In his virtual press briefing Wednesday, February 24, Presidential Spokesperson Harry Roque said he learned about the approval of the bill from House Majority Leader Martin Romualdez at about 10 p.m. Tuesday.
Hayaan muna nating matulog ang mga senador at hayaan nating ma-print at maipadala dito sa Palasyo, Roque said. (Let the senators sleep, and lets wait for the document to be printed and forwarded to the Palace.)
The proposed Covid-19 Vaccination Program Act of 2021 would expedite the vaccine procurement and administration processes.
It augments the budget of state-owned Philippine Health Insurance Corp. (PhilHealth) by P500 million, which will serve as an indemnity fund.
Both the House and Senate versions said this fund would be used as compensation in case of death, permanent disability or confinement following the immunization.
The bill would also allow local government units (LGUs) to directly accept donations of Covid-19 vaccines authorized by the Food and Drug Administration (FDA).
As of Wednesday, the FDA has issued an emergency use authorization (EUA) for the vaccines from Pfizer, AstraZeneca and Sinovac.
Vaccine donations, however, must be inspected by the FDA and must comply with the guidelines and reportorial requirements of the Department of Health and of the National Task Force Against COVID-19.
The LGUs would also be authorized to make advance payments for their vaccine procurements, create their own lists of vaccine recipients, and directly purchase ancillary supplies for the storage, transport and administration of Covid-19 vaccines.
Under the approved bill, recipients of the vaccine would be given a vaccine card to serve as record of the vaccination details.
The vaccine card, however, is not a requirement for work, school or travel.
The government is expecting 600,000 doses from Sinovac, the first batch of vaccines set to arrive in the country.
Sinovac Biotech general manager Helen Yang, in the same press briefing, said shipment will take about a week from the issuance of the EUA.
The EUA for the Sinovac vaccine was issued on Monday, February 22. An EUA allows the use of a vaccine under development for the duration of a public health emergency. (Marites Villamor-Ilano / SunStar Philippines)