Indemnity problem in vaccine purchase

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    WITHOUT its own vaccine, or any private pharmaceutical firm capable of developing one for COVID-19, the Philippines is left to the mercy of foreign countries and companies whose policies on these matters tend to uphold their own “vaccine nationalism.”

    This means at a time of serious want such as what the world is experiencing now, countries like the United States, United Kingdom, Sweden, India, China and others which have vaccine manufacturing capability tend to serve their own constituents first before sharing the product with others.

    Here, again, is a reminder that the Philippines should hastily develop its own virological capability, as contained in a bill pending in Congress.

    Meanwhile, President Duterte is faced with mounting problems in connection with the government’s purchase of COVID-19 vaccines. This one has something to do with the indemnification provision in the purchase contracts, which the drug manufacturers are reportedly insisting as a requirement.

    ‘Our leaders in the House of Representatives, Senate and Malacañang Palace should put their act together to solve this problem, instead of fighting for the positions in the 2022 elections.’

    Secretary Carlito Galvez Jr. had explained to the Senate in a previous hearing that local government units and private companies cannot purchase COVID-19 vaccines without the participation of the national government because of this indemnification requirement. The drug companies abroad had to be assured that they will not pay or assume liability in case of adverse effects of their products. This is the reason for the tripartite sales transactions involving the drug manufacturer, the national government, and another entity — whether LGU or private organization.

    Our own Congress had to pass a law to legitimize the indemnification requirement asked for by the big pharma. The problem now is that — after acceding to the demand– President Duterte seems to vacillate.

    In his speech on Monday night, March 22, the Chief Executive said the government must not be made to assume liability for the side effects from private-sector procured vaccines, which is a provision in Republic Act 11525 or COVID-19 Vaccination Program Act of 2021 which he signed just last month.

    Duterte said in that televised remark: “The government cannot guarantee, much less give you an immune status that you are freed of any and all liability… I think we cannot even do that, even if we wanted to, ‘yung assumption of liability for these stocks that are brought… for the private sector…”

    This dilemma further puts a hurdle to the nation’s chances of buying more vaccines that we need, in the wake of the sudden surge of COVID-19 cases. Our leaders in the House of Representatives, Senate and Malacañang Palace should put their act together to solve this problem, instead of fighting for the positions in the 2022 elections.

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