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Presidential Spokesperson Harry Roque / ABS-CBN News

Indemnification issue causes delay of vaccine delivery 

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Malacañang denied that delay in the delivery of Covid-19 vaccines to the country was due to “mismanagement” of the procurement process, according to a report by Philippine News Agency.

Senate Minority Leader Franklin Drilon blamed “mismanagement” of the procurement process as another reason for the delay in vaccine delivery, aside from the absence of an indemnification law.

However, Presidential Spokesperson Harry Roque disagreed with Drilon’s statement, insisting that the lack of an indemnification law is the only reason for the delay.

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Roque said there is a letter from the World Health Organization’s COVAX Facility to prove that the vaccines were supposed to arrive mid-February.

“Well, we obviously disagree and malinaw po iyan ‘no. Mayroon tayong liham, hindi po madi-deny ang liham na galing sa COVAX na mid-February darating iyong Pfizer at saka iyong AstraZeneca (that’s clear. We have a letter, they cannot deny the letter from COVAX that says Pfizer and AstraZeneca vaccines will arrive mid-February),” he said in a Palace press briefing.

Citing vaccine czar Carlito Galvez Jr., Roque said vaccine developers are concerned with the country’s previous experience with the anti-dengue vaccine Dengvaxia.

“May mga natakot na manufacturers dahil dito lang naman sa Pilipinas nadidemanda ang mga bakuna na inaprubahan hindi lang ng FDA, kung hindi ng WHO ‘no (There are some manufacturers who were afraid because it’s only in the Philippines where vaccines approved by the FDA and WHO face charges),” he said.

The indemnification law, he said, would protect the drug company in case of unexpected adverse events.

“Siyempre, kinakailangang protektahan nila iyong kanilang mga interes baka mamaya makulong sila eh sila na nga ang gumagawa ng bakuna para sa Covid-19 (Of course, they need to protect their interests because they might end up in jail despite manufacturing vaccines for Covid-19),” he said.

Meanwhile, Roque expressed hope that critics would have nothing else to complain about once the government kicks off its Covid-19 immunization campaign.

“They are entitled to say what they want. Pero kagaya ng aking sinabi, sandali lang po ang kaligayahan ng ating mga kritiko dahil tuloy na po ang ating vaccination program (but like I said, their happiness won’t last long because our vaccination program will push through),” he added.

The initial delivery to the country of 117,000 doses of the Pfizer-BioNTech vaccines from WHO’s COVAX scheme had been delayed due to the need to finalize indemnification agreements.

Last Friday, President Rodrigo Duterte certified as urgent the proposed law mandating an indemnification fund for people who might experience the possible adverse effects of Covid-19 vaccines.

On Monday, the House of Representatives approved on second reading the proposed bill.

Under the bill, the Department of Health and the National Task Force Against Covid-19 shall be authorized to procure Covid-19 vaccines, including ancillary supplies and services necessary for their storage, transport, deployment and administration, through negotiated procurement under emergency cases as defined in Republic Act 9184 or the Government Procurement Reform Act.

The bill also allows local government units and private entities to procure vaccines directly from manufacturers.

It proposes the creation of a Covid-19 national vaccine indemnity fund worth PHP500 million to compensate any person inoculated through the Covid-19 vaccination program, in case of death, permanent disability or hospitalization confinement for serious adverse events.


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