House OKs on 3rd reading Covid vaccination indemnification measure

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The House of Representatives on Monday night approved on third and final reading a bill establishing a vaccine indemnity fund and expediting the purchase of vaccines against the coronavirus disease 2019 (Covid-19).

With 225 affirmative votes, zero negative vote, and six abstentions, the chamber passed on third reading House Bill 8648, or the proposed Covid-19 Vaccination Program Act.

The third reading approval came after it was approved on second reading on the same day.

President Rodrigo Duterte has certified the bill as urgent that lifts the “three-day” rule between the second and third readings.

Under the bill, the Department of Health (DOH) and the National Task Force Against Covid-19 (NTF) 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 seeks to allow local government units (LGUs) to engage in an advance payment mechanism not exceeding 50 percent of the total contract price for the procurement of Covid-19 vaccines.

The measure proposes the creation of a Covid-19 national vaccine indemnity fund worth P500 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.

It provides tax exemptions for the procurement, importation, storage, transport, distribution, and administration of Covid-19 vaccines.

Under the bill, the vaccines will be exempted from customs duties, value-added tax, excise tax, and other fees.

The DOH shall be mandated to issue a vaccine passport to all Filipinos, which shall be a record of the Covid-19 vaccinations received by an individual.

Individuals who have completed Covid-19 immunization may be granted certain benefits or exemptions, such as international travel, non-essential domestic travel, local checkpoint and quarantine exemptions, and access to business establishments.

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