A PARTY-LIST lawmaker has filed a bill which hopes to systematize the country’s mass vaccination protocols against coronavirus disease-19 (COVID-19) and other infectious diseases by providing immunization or vaccination passports for all of those who would receive their vaccine shots.
In filing House Bill (HB) 8280, otherwise known as the Vaccination Passport Act, Ang Probinsyano Rep. Ronnie Ong said that as the country prepares to secure and roll out the needed vaccines to immunize the population against the COVID-19 virus, there is a need to ensure the unhampered implementation and maximization of the government’s anti-COVID-19 mass vaccination program.
Ong said that the government must fully document the entire inoculation process to ensure that health authorities can monitor the efficacy of the vaccines and determine its side effects if there is any.
He said this passport can also be used as an identification system that allows people unrestricted access to public facilities and participate in mass gatherings without the need to use face masks and face shields.
He noted that some business establishments may opt to require people to show this passport until after the Department of Health (DoH) declares that the threat of the COVID-19 virus has been totally eradicated.
The bill mandates the InterAgency Task Force (IATF) on COVID-19, particularly the Department of Health (DoH),Department of Tourism (DoT), the Department of Foreign Affairs (DFA), the Department of Trade and Industry (DTI) and the Department of Transportation (DOTr), to “coordinate and provide for a single internationally-recognized vaccine passport to serve as proof that a person has been vaccinated against COVID-19.”
He said the vaccination passport “shall be issued as a matter of right whether or not the person availed of the free vaccination program of the government or was vaccinated through personal and other means.”
The bill stated that the IATF, in accordance with evidence-based or internationally-recognized policies, shall list down and regularly update the exemptions or activities allowed for holders of COVID-19 Vaccine Passport such as, but not limited to:
a) International and domestic travel, including non-essential travel;
b) Employment abroad;
c) Local checkpoint and quarantine exemptions;
d) Opening of and Access to some business establishments; and
e) Post-vaccination protocols applicable to Vaccine Passport holders, as may be determined by the IATF, in relation to rules on public gatherings, use of face mask and face shield, etc.
In effect, Ong said the vaccination passport is basically a badge that proves that one is safe to mingle with other people and engage in activities without the need to use face masks and face shields and observe social distancing rules.
The bill also provides penalties for production and possession of forged or fake vaccination passport as provided for under Republic Act (RA) No. 8239 or the Passport Act of 1996.
This can be also used as a ground by the IATF to deny a vaccine passport application, or revoke an already issued one, he said.
“Beginning December of this year, various countries have already been leading the procurement of COVID19 vaccines and have been positively considering the follow-up implementation of vaccine passports which would incentivize vaccination and would impose an artificial restriction on who can and cannot travel within and outside the country and participate in social, civil, and economic activities,” Ong said.
“Although the COVID-19 inoculation is still a few months away from entering our borders, it is but proper to take further preparations and necessary steps for its unhampered implementation and maximization. In line with this, it is our hope that this bill will be considered and approved the soonest possible time before the possible roll out of the vaccine on June 2021 in order to restore people’s trust and confidence to travel with the end view of reviving and bolstering our economy,” he added.