Indemnification vital to ensure more vaccine supply, generate demand – Galvez

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Metro Manila (CNN Philippines, February 11) — Vaccine czar Carlito Galvez, Jr. told Senators having an indemnification fund is important to secure more COVID-19 vaccines, and encourage more Filipinos to be vaccinated.

During a Committee on Finance hearing on a bill that aims to expedite vaccine procurement, Galvez explained having a provision of indemnification under the law will greatly affect the volumes that vaccine producers are willing to give the country.

"We need an indemnification clause in the law considering that it will greatly affect the volumes that the manufacturers are willing to give to us," he said.

This will also assure them in case of adverse effects after immunization, given that vaccines are only being distributed through Emergency Use Authorization.

People will also be encouraged to get the shots since they are assured of compensation if they experience adverse effects, Galvez added.

Speaking to CNN Philippines, World Health Organization Country Representative Rabindra Abeyasinghe explained manufacturers require indemnification funds "for their own safety" since not all vaccines have been approved for the market.

"This is recognizing that all vaccines are still not cleared for market authorization and all these are emergency use-listed vaccines and so there are certain precautions that the manufacturers are taking," he said.

The WHO added all governments that joined the COVAX facility initiative have agreed to put up indemnification funds. The COVAX facility seeks to provide over 150 participating countries equitable access to coronavirus vaccines.

Senate Minority Leader Franklin Drilon suggested that budget for this be sourced from the contingency fund of the government.

"So that we do not have to go into issues like is there an appropriation which will require certification as to the availability of fund, we can just include in the proposed authorization a provision that, we can earmark a portion of the contingency fund for indemnification," he noted.

Committee chair Sonny Angara said comments will have to be solicited from the Office of the President as they are the ones managing this fund. If this will be settled then this will be added to the bill to put certainty on the matter, he added.

Meanwhile, Health Secretary Francisco Duque III said PhilHealth has been instructed to look into formulating a benefit package that will cover patients who will experience severe side effects following vaccination.

RELATED: Congress asked to pass bill providing compensation in case of serious side effects from COVID-19 vaccines

The government has been implementing efforts to procure enough supply of vaccine doses to be able to immunize up to 70 million Filipinos. To complement this, LGUs are also entering into tripartite agreements with vaccine manufacturers and the national government.

Galvez said around 27 million vials have been purchased under these agreements, including those made with the private sector.

President Rodrigo Duterte will also certify as urgent the passage of a bill that will allow local government units to make advance payments to vaccine makers. This will also exempt them from procurement rules to speed up the purchase and rollout of the much-needed vaccines.