Health workers group opposes bill that allows LGUs to directly procure vaccine
Marje Pelayo • February 12, 2021 • 599
MANILA, Philippines — A group of healthcare workers expressed opposition to the proposed measure filed in the Senate seeking to allow local government units (LGUs) to procure vaccines directly from pharmaceutical companies.
The Healthcare Professionals Alliance against COVID-19 (HPAAC) argued that once Senate Bill 2042 is enacted, the LGUs may freely purchase vaccines by just acquiring an emergency use authorization (EUA) from the Food and Drug Administration (FDA) even without going through the Health Technology Assessment Council (HTAC).
The bill was filed by Senator Juan Miguel Zubiri.
“Ang tinitingnan ng FDA iyong safety mainly. Pagdating nung HTAC pag na-recomend na ng FDA ang emergency use authorization, aaralin na ng masinsinan iyan ng Health Technology Assessment Council,” explained Dr. Antonio Dans, HPAAC convenor.
“Ano ba ang masinsinan? Hindi lang iyong safety, iyong effectiveness, iyong efficiency, ibig sabihin sulit ba?” he added.
Dr. Aileen Espina, also a member of HPAAC, expressed concern about the possible repeat of the case with Dengvaxia vaccines that lacked assessment.
“Ayaw na po natin na mangyari ulit iyong nangyari sa atin noong una sa Dengvaxia. Noon nagbakuna tayo kulang ng pagsusuri,” she said.
“Kaya ngayon sinisigurado natin na dadaan siya sa tamang proseso, hindi lamang sa FDA na nage-establish ng safety at efficacy kundi pati din sa HTAC,” she added.
Another concern, the group said, is that the list of priority recipients may be disregarded given the limited supply of vaccines.
Dans cited the case of coronavirus vaccines which from around 200 million available doses, only 10 countries were able to buy 75% of the supply which means the other 25% would be shared among the remaining 130 countries.
“Ngayon kung uulitin natin dito ganun din gagawin natin. May mga LGU na kayang bumili ng bakuna, merong hindi. Ganun din ang mangyayari,” Dans said.
“Iyang problema sa katarungan na iyan ay pinaaalala lang natin. Iyon ang pinakamalaking problema sa pandemic na ito, iyong lugi lagi ang mahihirap,” he stressed.
Espina, meanwhile, argued that the main concern is not about the procurement itself but the inequitable distribution of vaccines which may compromise those who needed them first.
“Ang dapat mong unahin ay yung talagang nangangailangan. The vulnerable at yung nasa peligro na magkalat,” she said.
“Kasi kung uunahin mo yung may kaya, mayaman, kaya nilang magpaospital, kaya nilang mag isolate, kaya nilang mag quarantine ng matagal, hindi natin maaachieve ang herd immunity kasi yung mga nangangailangan pakalat-kalat sa lansangan, the very vulnerable. Kakalat pa rin ang sakit na COVID so hindi parin tayo magiging safe,” she added adding that the price of vaccine may shoot up if LGUs are given freedom to purchase.
But according to the bill’s author, LGUs will still have to enter into a tripartite agreement in procuring vaccines which involves the national government.
“Senate Bill 2042 is not going to give LGUs precedence over the national government in terms of vaccine procurement. National government pa rin ang masusunod — LGUs still need to follow the national guidelines for vaccine deployment set by the Department of Health and the National Task Force against COVID-19,” explained Zubiri.
Also, vaccines can be negotiated to a much lower price through the tripartite agreement.
“It’s already important that the national government also comes in out of transparency to be able to bring down the price of these vaccines,” the senator said.
“Let me stress again, this bill was requested by our LGUs, and it will only apply to our LGUs with tripartite agreements. So people do not need to worry about private entities taking advantage of this bill,” he concluded. –MNP (with reports from Rey Pelayo)
MANILA, Philippines – The private sector is still required to enter into a tripartite agreement even after President Rodrigo Duterte said that he will allow firms to purchase their own supply of COVID-19 vaccines “at will,” Malacañang said Tuesday.
“Ang pag-aangkat ay sa pamamagitan pa rin ng tripartite agreement,” Presidential Spokesperson Harry Roque said during a virtual press briefing.
Roque explained that COVID-19 vaccines in use were only issued an emergency use authorization (EUA) and cannot be sold commercially.
“Dahil ang lahat po ng ito [vaccines] ay covered pa lamang ng emergency use authorization at wala pa pong inilalabas na approval for commercial use ang kahit anong bakuna,” he said.
Under Republic Act 11525 or the COVID-19 Vaccination Program Act, the national government is mandated to shoulder the cost of adverse effects. The law also states that private firms may purchase vaccines through a tripartite agreement with the government and vaccine manufacturers.
“Importante pa rin ang lagda ng gobyerno dahil nga po sa indemnity provision ng ating batas na kailan lang po ay naisabatas ng ating Kongreso na kung mayroong side effects ay gobyerno pa rin ang magbabayad,” Roque said.
“Ang nagbago lang po, ang mga pribadong sektor, kung gusto nilang umangkat ay ipagbigay alam lang po ito sa ating vaccine czar at gagawin natin ang ating tripartite agreement,” he added.
During his weekly public address on late Monday night, President Rodrigo Duterte said he has ordered vaccine czar and National Task Force against COVID-19 chief implementer Carlito Galvez Jr. to sign all documents that would permit the private firms to import their own supply of COVID-19 vaccines, regardless of the doses they want to procure.
Galvez said the directive of the president is meant to speed up the procurement process.
“He said there should be no delay to avoid creating a perception that the government is controlling the procurement,” he said in the same briefing.
The vaccine czar said the vaccine procurement by the private entities will be tax-free but its rollout should follow the government’s prioritization framework.
MANILA, Philippines — The Senate may approve next week a bill that seeks to establish a P500-million national indemnity fund that will be used to compensate any inoculated person who might experience a severe adverse effect, Senate Majority Leader Juan Miguel Zubiri said Wednesday.
During the Laging Handa briefing, Zubiri said the measure may be ratified on Monday if Malacañang will issue a certification of urgency to expedite its passage.
“Hopefully, we can ratify this by Monday next week, ibibigay po namin ito sa Malacañang for the signature of the president. Hopefully, by the end of the month, maging batas na ito kung pirmahan agad ni president,” he said.
President Rodrigo Duterte earlier expressed readiness to certify as urgent the passage of bills creating an indemnification agreement and advance market commitment to speed up COVID-19 negotiations and deliveries.
An indemnification clause refers to the agreement reached between stakeholders identifying the party that would take responsibility in case those receiving the jabs experienced adverse side effects.
Vaccine czar Carlito Galvez Jr. said he has been communicating with lawmakers to fast-track the pending bills.
“Para po magkaroon ng proteksyon ang ating DOH personnel and at the same time yung manufacturer from any possible law suit considering that yung pagpunta ng vaccine dito ay under clinical trial number 3 o tinatawag nating emergency use authorization only,” he said.
Zubiri said the Senate was supposed to pass Senate Bill 2057 on second reading on Tuesday but it was deferred due to the absence of resource persons who could provide answers regarding the matter.
The measure proposes to authorize the Department of Health and the National Task Force Against COVID-19 to undertake negotiated procurement of COVID-19 vaccines, as well as necessary supplies and services related to the immunization program by allowing local government units (LGUs) and private entities to directly procure COVID-19 vaccines with their own funds, provided that they do so within a tripartite mechanism with the DOH and the NTF-COVID-19.
The measure also seeks to establish a COVID-19 National Indemnity Fund to compensate any person who has been vaccinated and experiences serious adverse side effects or even death.
MANILA, Philippines – The Senate Committee on Rules has given its go-signal to the chamber’s committees to proceed with deliberations on bills proposing the creation of new government departments.
In a statement issued on Monday, Senate Majority Leader Juan Miguel Zubiri, who chairs the Committee on Rules, said the bills can be simultaneously taken up by respective panels.
Once committee reports have been submitted, an all-member caucus will then be called to discuss the prioritization of bills for plenary deliberations, he added.
These bills include the creation of the Department of Overseas Filipinos, the Department of Disaster Resilience and Management, the Department of Culture, and the Department of Water Management.
“The Senate works through a committee system…by practice and tradition, we have long given committees their sole prerogative and discretions regarding matters referred to them. Each committee has its sovereign right to bring out its committee report on a particular measure,” Zubiri said.
“The Senate is a collegial body with a collective decision. On the priorities of the Senate, we will take this up with an all-member caucus to discuss priorities that will be taken up on the floor,” he added.
In a separate statement, Senator Joel Villanueva welcomed the decision of the rules committee to allow several standing panels to proceed with hearing bills on establishing new government departments alongside the proposed rightsizing measure, which seeks to trim the “excess fat” in the bureaucracy.
Villanueva chairs the Senate labor committee where bills pushing for the creation of an overseas Filipino department are pending.
“This is a welcome development. We will resume the committee hearings into the overseas Filipino department bills,” he said.
The challenge ahead is to ensure that the proposed Department of Filipinos Overseas would mean better lives for OFWs and their families and decent job opportunities, here or overseas, the senator said.
“The pandemic has exposed the weakness of our policies on [overseas Filipino workers], particularly our reintegration program to help them transition back to the local labor force,” he said.
“We support the principles of rightsizing, especially because we have been raising the issue of unfilled positions and contractuals in government for the longest time. We will do our best to tackle all issues and hear all sides being raised in this particular measure in the Committee on Labor,” he added. “Who knows that this could be a model for rightsizing done right.”
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