House OKs indemnity fund bill for COVID-19 vaccines on final reading

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Metro Manila (CNN Philippines, February 22) - Voting 225-0 with six abstentions, the House of Representatives approved on third and final reading a bill that seeks to expedite the government's purchase and administration of COVID-19 vaccines.

This was after President Rodrigo Duterte certified as urgent the Senate Bill 2057 and House Bill 8648, with both measures ensuring the availability of national funds to compensate Filipinos in case they die or experience serious side effects after receiving anti-coronavirus shots.

Both versions seek to provide ₱500 million for the COVID-19 National Indemnity Fund that will be sourced from the contingent fund of the national budget.

The House bill also provides that local government units can only purchase vaccines through a multi-party agreement, involving the National Task Force, the Department of Health, and the vaccine supplier.

It allows provinces, cities, and municipalities to make an advance payment of 50% of the total cost to the vaccine manufacturers.

The bill also seeks to exempt vaccines from customs duties, value added tax, excise tax, donor's tax, and other fees.

Under the proposed law, the DOH is tasked to issue vaccine passports to record the vaccinations received by individuals.

The Senate will continue the discussions on the proposed measure on Wednesday afternoon.

Vaccines from Pfizer, AstraZeneca, and Sinovac were expected to arrive in the country as early as February. However, the arrival of the doses was delayed to due to different issues faced by manufacturers.

Vaccine czar Carlito Galvez, Jr. said Pfizer at the last minute asked for a bilateral agreement on their indemnification clause.

Meanwhile, Galvez said AstraZeneca is facing problems with its global manufacturing.

On the other hand, Sinovac was just issued Emergency Use Authorization on Monday.