Duterte signs bill to speed up vaccine orders

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Philippine President Rodrigo R. Duterte on Friday night signed a measure that will fast-track coronavirus vaccine orders.

“We are confident that the signing of this landmark piece of legislation would expedite the procurement and administration of vaccines for the protection against COVID-19,” presidential spokesman Harry L. Roque, Jr. said in a statement.

Congressmen on Tuesday adopted the Senate version of the bill, which allows local governments to make advance payments for vaccines and other supplies for up to 50% of their target population.

The orders must be made with the Health department and National Task Force Against COVID-19.

Mr. Duterte certified the bill as urgent days after a Senate committee endorsed it in plenary.

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The COVID-19 Vaccination Program Act, advance payments must not exceed 15% of the contract price pending delivery “unless otherwise directed by the President.”

Private entities may order coronavirus vaccines in cooperation with DOH and the national task force.

The law also creates a P500-million indemnification fund that will be used to pay patients who may get sick from vaccines. The fund will be managed by the Philippine Health Insurance Corp.

Vaccine czar Carlito G. Galvez, Jr. earlier said the lack of an indemnification plan had delayed the delivery of the first batch of vaccines under a global initiative for equal access. Foreign drugmakers were worried about getting sued in case of side effects.

The law protects public officials and employees, contractors, manufacturers, volunteers and representatives of private entities from lawsuits related to coronavirus vaccines unless there is willful misconduct and gross negligence. — Kyle Aristophere T. Atienza

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