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Houses passes vaccine measure

THE measure that seeks to expedite the vaccine procurement aims to help the national government in the rollout of the coronavirus disease (COVID-19) vaccination program.

This is according to Speaker Lord Allan Velasco as he lauded the members of the House of Representatives for the swift passage of House Bill 8648.

Voting 225-0 with six abstentions, the Lower Chamber approved on third and final reading the COVID-19 Vaccinaton Program Act of 2021.

The bill aimed at expediting the purchase and administration of COVID-19 vaccines and creating A P500-million indemnification fund.

It authorizes the Department of Health (DOH) and the National Task Force (NTF) to procure COVID-19 vaccines, including ancillary supplies and services necessary for their storage, transport, deployment and administration, through negotiated procurement under emergency cases.

The main proponents of the measure include Speaker Velasco, Majority Leader Martin Romualdez, Minority Leader Joseph Stephen “Caraps” Paduano and Quirino Rep. Junie Cua.

The bill provides for a COVID-19 vaccination program that would address the adverse impact of the disease through the procurement and administration of safe and effective vaccines by the national government.

Under the bill, the DOH and the NTF shall be authorized to negotiate and approve terms and conditions in behalf of the local government units and other procuring entities.

The bill states that provinces, cities and municipalities may procure or accept donations only in cooperation with the DOH and NTF through a multiparty agreement.

Private entities also may procure COVID-19 vaccines only in cooperation with the DOH and NTF through a multiparty agreement. Any such vaccines, supplies or services procured by private entities shall be for the sole and exclusive use of the purchasing companies.

The bill would also create a COVID-19 National Vaccine Indemnity Fund, which shall be administered by PhilHealth in case of death, permanent disability or hospitalization confinement for anyone vaccinated.

The amount of P500 million has also been authorized to augment the funds of PhilHealth for this purpose, which shall be sourced from the Contingent Fund as provided under Republic Act 11518 or the General Appropriations Act of 2021.

Included in the priority list for inoculation are the healthcare workers; senior citizens, economic frontliners and essential workers.

From January 1, 2021 to December 31, 2023, all procurement, importation, donation, storage, transport, deployment and administration of COVID-19 vaccines through the COVID-19 vaccination program by the government or any political subdivisions and private groups shall be exempted from paying customs duties, value-addd tax, excise tax, donor’s tax and other fees.