The Philippines is one of the few countries in the Covid-19 pandemic-stricken world that has not yet started vaccinating its population.
After some initial vaccine procurement blunders, government officials tried to appease the Filipino people by saying that vaccines would arrive by mid-February. However, after the moving deadline passed without any vaccines in the country, they admitted that delivery would be delayed once again due to the lack of an indemnification fund that the Philippine government failed to prepare for.
The Duterte government officials who have somehow managed to keep their jobs despite multiple epic failures throughout this pandemic claimed they were informed of the indemnification requirement only during the latter phase of vaccine procurement negotiations.
Belatedly acting quickly, the House of Representatives passed a bill setting a P500 million indemnification fund to shoulder the medical costs of Filipinos should they experience adverse effects after Covid-19 vaccination. A total of 225 legislators voted to pass House Bill No. 8648 or the proposed Covid-19 Vaccination Program Act of 2021 on Feb. 22, four days after President Rodrigo Duterte certified the measure as urgent.
HB 8648 would also grant immunity to public officials and employees, contractors, volunteers and private sector representatives – including vaccine manufacturers – from claims arising from the vaccine program.
This indemnification fund that is a requirement to gain Covid-19 vaccine doses from pharmaceutical companies and the COVAX global facility has obviously been prepared beforehand by the other countries that have availed of the vaccine.
Unfortunately for the Philippines, our officials responsible for preparing all the requirements for vaccine procurement have been caught flatfooted and unaware yet again, highlighting the ineptitude that has characterized this country’s pandemic response over the past year.
The final version of HB 8648 approved by the House is now closer to the pending Senate version but with some provisions either in conflict or missing, both houses will have to convene a bicameral conference before the final version of the bill can be sent to Malacañang for Duterte’s signature.
For a government that counted on Covid-19 vaccination as the only solution to the pandemic and hope for a return to normalcy, it is inexcusable that the people responsible have dropped the ball once more and the Philippines is now on track to be among the tail end of countries to start vaccinating its people and hopefully recover from the devastating effects of the pandemic.
How much longer do Filipinos have to endure this never ending series of blunders?*