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Government asked to allow private firms to procure COVID vaccines

DEPUTY Speaker and Cagayan de Oro City Rep. Rufus Rodriguez on Thursday urged the government to allow private businesses to procure coronavirus disease-19 (COVID-19) vaccines for their employees and their families.

His call is contained in House Resolution (HR) No. 1453, in which he invoked the “right to health” of every Filipino as guaranteed by the Constitution.

Rodriguez, who represents Cagayan de Oro City’s second district, has filed a companion measure, House Bill (HB) 8301, that would exempt vaccines to be purchased by the private sector for their workers and dependents from import duties, value added tax, excise tax, and other fees.

In calling on the government to permit private companies to bring in vaccines, the House leader said the P72.5 billion set aside in the 2021 national budget for COVID-19 jabs is not enough for all Filipinos.

The allocation is estimated to cover only 30 percent to 50 percent of the country’s population, which is far from the 70 percent-80-percent herd immunity level the Department of Health (DoH) wants to achieve, he said.

He said the private sector must be allowed to procure vaccines to help the government “to attain the goal of herd immunity.”

“Many private companies have expressed interest in acquiring and purchasing vaccines for their employees and their dependents to move towards higher productivity and income for their personnel,” Rodriguez added.

He pointed out that from the onset of the pandemic, businesses have been a partner of the national government in addressing the social and economic fallout of the health crisis.

He stressed that if allowed, these companies would have to import vaccines approved by the Food and Drug Administration, and would have to abide by relevant rules and regulations.

“A proper vaccination program for the private sector will significantly aid the government in its pursuit to fight COVID-19 and its effects, and in regaining some semblance of normalcy with businesses bouncing back and ultimately placing the economy on its way to recovery,” he said.

Several business and industry leaders have earlier committed to purchase 2.6 million doses of vaccines from AstraZeneca, half of which will be for their workers and the other half will be donated to the government.

Scores of local government units have also negotiated with vaccine makers for their own supply.